Jackson Stands in Solidarity with Charlottesville

By on August 13, 2017

JACKSON HOLE, WY – “Jackson Hole rejects white nationalism” was the message on the sign and at the heart of a vigil Sunday evening on Jackson’s town square.

About 30 people gathered in solidarity with the people of Charlottesville, Virginia, where one woman was killed by a motorist that drove through a group of counterprotesters who were opposing white nationalists and neo-Nazis. Two police officers surveying the scene from above also died in a helicopter crash.

“We need to be louder than them,” Sarah Ross said before leading the group in a moment of silence. “Louder than the people shouting hate and intolerance.”

Jackson’s vigil was among more than 600 “Solidarity with Charlottesville” events across the country, according to Indivisible, the activism group spearheading the nationwide events. Local organizer Sue Wolff, who also organized the Women’s March in January, said she had plans to go to the Wind River Range Sunday. But then she saw the news and couldn’t go.

“Every day it gets worse,” Wolff said. “Our hearts are broken over what’s going on in Charlottesville, but we can’t let ourselves down. We have to keep fighting.”

After a moment of silence, residents and visitors alike moved to the southwest corner of the town square and stood under the antlers with signs that read, “White supremacy is terrorism,” and “Supporting racial justice starts at home. Home is Jackson.”

Heather McDonald carried a sign that read: “There is only one side.” After violence erupted, President Donald Trump tweeted that he condemns violence “on many sides.”

McDonald is a Charlottesville native. “This hit home for me,” she said through tears. “I’m glad people can stay strong, and come out here and support.”

Twenty-two-year old Sam Marks happened upon the vigil. She is living in Jackson for the summer with her parents, whose support for Trump has driven a wedge into their relationship. “I feel like crying,” she said. When the news broke, she said her parents “kinda didn’t say anything; they’re normally logical. There’s no logic for this.” Marks called her encounter with the vigil “divinity.”

Meanwhile, Marguerite and George Moran showed up at the square “because it’s the right thing to do,” Marguerite said.

“I can’t take it anymore,” George added. “The fabric of what it means to be American is being torn to pieces.”

The crowd garnered supportive honks, cheers and waves from passersby, including three men visiting from Charlottesville, one donning a University of Virginia T-shirt.

The vigil also saw some resistance.

“All lives matter,” a man mumbled under his breath as he passed a “Black Lives Matter” sign.

“I’m a white nationalist, does that make me a racist?” another man asked resident Carsten Stuhr.

“I didn’t know how to respond to that,” Stuhr said.

The terms “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” are both derived from the same idea: that the white race is superior to all other races. Folks who brandish these labels comprised the “Unite the Right” rally that started at the University of Virginia campus Friday night. Hundreds of people carrying tiki torches gathered to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. They chanted Nazi slogans like “Sieg Heil,” the Nazi victory salute.

Counterprotesters, including hordes of brave college students, also showed up.

The protest drew violent clashes Friday night and into Saturday morning, prompting Gov. Terry McAuliffe to declare a state of emergency and ask the National Guard to stand by. At 1:45 p.m., the driver of a vehicle rammed into a crowd of counterprotesters killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 people. The driver, James Fields, 20, of Ohio, has been charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and failing to stop at an accident that resulted in a death, The Guardian reported Sunday.

Southern Poverty Law Center reports that white nationalists have indeed felt emboldened since Trump moved into the White House, and hate crimes against people of color skyrocketed in the days following the election. But this is the first mass act of violence the U.S. has seen in Trump’s seven-month presidency. While McAuliffe denounced the white supremacists Sunday morning, telling them to “go home” and “stay out of here,” many have criticized Trump for not directly condemning white supremacy and instead vaguely decrying “violence, bigotry and hatred on many sides.”

“It’s hard to believe we’re having to do all this again,” one person said as the crowd thinned. “Everybody should be in such total outrage.”

 

 

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