An estimated 1,000 people attended a vigil at Greensboro’s City Hall on Sunday, Aug. 13 in response to the recent violence surrounding the ‘Unite The Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The rally was organized by white nationalists, including Klu Klux Klan (KKK) members and Neo-Nazis. Anti-fascist protesters attended in a counter-protest, which soon clashed with the ‘Unite The Right’ rally soon after it began. During the time that the rally took place, dozens of people were injured and three deaths were recorded. Two Virginia State Troopers were among the fatalities after their helicopter crashed while surveilling the area. Heather Heyer, a 38-year-old woman, was also killed after a white nationalist ran over protesters with his car.
“There was a noise I did not recognize,” said Matt Casella in an interview with the News & Record. Casella is a member of the International Socialist Organization of Greensboro who witnessed the violence in Charlottesville. “Some people were standing between the parked cars and I watched them be pulled under the wheels of those cars as they smashed over them and on top of their bodies.”
The vigil held in Greensboro was one of many held across North Carolina and the nation. It took place at the Governmental Plaza Downtown from 7pm-8pm and was hosted by The Indivisible Piedmont and Guilford County Democratic Party. Many attendees expressed their distaste for the weekend’s events.
“Disgusting. Horrifying. Mortifying,” said Marikay Abuzuaiter, a City Councilwoman, at the event. “What other words could be used to describe what happened yesterday?”
There was police presence as a precaution, but the demonstration was peaceful. The crowd sung hymns and chanted; various Greensboro politicians spoke at the event.
“When I was watching TV yesterday and saw the horror unfold I thought we are not this,” said Mayor Nancy Vaughan. “But the more I thought about it the more I thought yes we are. We are a community very similar to Charlottesville and if it can happen there it can happen anywhere.”
Greensboro’s City Council has also taken steps to promote healing in the community since the vigil.
“Instead of saying Charlottesville might or could happen in Greensboro, we need to say that it did happen here,” said Marcia Fouteh, a speaker at the City Council meeting.
Fouteh was referring to the 1979 Greensboro Massacre, in which KKK members and Nazis drove into an anti-Klan rally, then shot and killed five protesters. In 2006, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission researched the incident and a civil jury decided that the city and some KKK members were responsible for the killings. In January 2009, the city council issued a statement of regret but did not apologize. A vote on Aug. 15 changed that.
“We’ve had the same people come in here for years,” said Goldie Wells, a councilwoman who argued in favor of apologizing. “Why is it that we cannot be the ones that make a change and stop it?… We are not responsible for the rest of the world but [to] the people [who] voted us in to stand for what is right for the city of Greensboro.”
The City Council decided in a seven-vote majority to apologize for the city’s role.