Alumni Exhibit Highlights Student Perseverance During Summer of Hate | August 12
For the first time ever, UVA alumni are sharing a collection of their truth, their traumas and a wealth of evidence to back up their claim that “THE UVA IS ACCOMPLISHED”.
During the fateful Summer of Hate, UVa students took their posts on the front lines of several peaceful counter-protests when white supremacists tried to take to their streets. The exhibit includes items collected from the May unauthorized rally at Court Square Park, the KKK rally in July, and the Unite the Right attack in August.
Curated entirely by university alumni with UVa associate professor and community activist Dr. Jalane Schmidt, the “No Unity Without Justice” exhibit at the Albert and Shirley Small Collections Library tells the story resistance in the face of extremist and administrative opposition.
Curator Hannah Russell hadn’t even completed her first full year at UVa before she came face-to-face with neo-Nazis in Charlottesville.
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Russel thought up the concept for the exhibit alongside fellow August 11-12 alumni and survivor Kendall King.
“I want visitors to understand that it wasn’t just a one-time event,” Russel said. “I want them to see there was so much that preceded this and the background. I want people to see that there is a history of white supremacy, both intellectually [and in] white supremacist violence and intimidation in Charlottesville.
An active student organizer and activist, King returned to Charlottesville on a counter-protest mission against the white supremacist attacks that were expected throughout the summer. King watched as neo-Nazis surrounded his classmates next to the statue of Thomas Jefferson and marched for equality the day Heather Heyer was murdered.
Alumni-curators are still frustrated and disappointed with the UVa for its naïveté in preparing for the Torchlight Parade and Unite the Right rally.
“We not only demonstrate the organizing that students did in 2017 against the rise of these two men who were organizing to try to use Charlottesville as a flashpoint to coalesce their white nationalist movement,” King said, “ but a whole story of students working against the university trying to make it a less racist and more welcoming place for all Virginians.
After the rally, the university quickly positioned itself as a protector of free speech. But from the students’ perspective, the rally presented a failure by the institution to acknowledge the violence often attached to hate speech.
The exposure not only holds UVa responsible for the violence on the grounds and downtown UVa, but also indicts the city council; a dossier proving the gathering would be dangerous was compiled by activist and writer Emily Gorcenski and submitted to city administrators prior to the attack. This collection, which remained private until June this year, is filled with nearly 300 pages among other artifacts.
The dossier includes screenshots of white supremacist chat rooms and social media platforms, as well as text messages of discussions from the Unite the Right planning group that were infiltrated by local activists.
An included tweet, from Anticom’s Twitter account, reads: “Reminder to prepare before Charlottesville…walk slowly and carry a big stick.” Another screenshot taken from Facebook shows a rally participant inquiring about the rules for bringing automatic weapons to the event.
Schmidt and other activists submitted the case to the Charlottesville Police Department, City Council and Commission on Human Rights nearly a month before Unite the Right bombed the city.
Former Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy and former City Manager Maurice Jones supported activists throughout the Summer of Hate, but most city administrators insisted residents must allow the white supremacists to exercise their right to freedom of expression.
“The mayor was sort of trying to thread the needle and said we had no way around it because it’s a matter of free speech; and the kind of information that was in that file was not really, in our opinion, taken seriously,” Schmidt said. “They want to see it go through their official entities like the Virginia State Police. At that time, the police, they didn’t know that they didn’t know, they didn’t know the law. And that led to paranoid planning.
Directly to the left of the file, a video shows a former student asking former president Teresa Sullivan why she and the rest of the administration were unaware of the torchlight parade, even though the students did. Sullivan replied, “Did you tell us? You told us they were coming? No, you didn’t. No one brought him up to us. Don’t expect us to read the alternative websites. We don’t do that. You know, you have some responsibility here too. Tell us what you know.
Sullivan’s response that blamed the students shocked the UVa community. While students, staff and faculty contacted Sullivan’s office with concerns about the chatter they were witnessing on social media.
The 2017 report commissioned by the city by former federal prosecutor Tim Heaphy concluded that the University Police Department (UPD) had failed to properly prepare for the torch rally, despite numerous warnings of potential violence, creating thus setting a precedent for the Unite the Right attack the following day. .
“It was like they really fumbled, they really dropped the ball to protect the students,” King said. “We went to the lawn because we heard there were Nazis marching, saying, ‘This isn’t your space,’ you know, ‘This is our space, we’re students. here.’ When we went, we just felt like the University didn’t present itself in a way that was a real investment in trying to keep students safe.
“No Unity Without Justice” presents the history of organized and intentional counter-protests in the face of racism. He points out that the events of August 11 and 12 were not isolated incidents in an otherwise idyllic college town; rather, they indicate that Charlottesville still makes room for white supremacy in its public spaces.
The installation begins with a timeline of revolutionary student resistance dating back to the May 1970 strike on UVa grounds, when UVa’s first black student council presented anti-racism and anti-Vietnam War demands to the President Edgar Shannon. The timeline chronicles the struggle for gender diversity, college integration, disengagement from apartheid protests, and more student movements on Grounds over the years.
The timeline is juxtaposed by Summer of Hate artifacts, including a burst tear gas canister, across the room.
The similarities between student issues in 1970 and those created in 2017 illustrate that UVa still finds a way to prioritize the needs, identities, and safety of all of its students.
“The University has a lot of work to do to make sure students feel safe on campus, that they feel like they won’t be leaving the University with a lot of debt,” King said. . “All those requests we wrote the day after August 11 and 12 are still there.”
Over the past five years, UVa President Ryan’s 2030 plan details a timeline for more community partnership initiatives, including converting college land to affordable housing, increasing student admissions 20% black, the extension of its university resources to local young people with programs for middle school students. and more. Check out the changes here.
Even without the protection that might have prevented the ensuing violence, UVa students, Charlottesville residents and supporters across Virginia managed to deter another gathering of white supremacists on August 12.
“But still it was joyful and challenging times like we like to unite the right rally didn’t happen,” Russell said. “I still cling to that. And it’s still like two truths that exist at the same time. As if it was both a deeply tragic and traumatic day and also a victory because this rally couldn’t really happen.