Recently, racial and political conflicts over a Confederate statue in Virginia have risen throughout the country. The outcome of these confrontations has spiraled into a fervor of chaos manifested into protests and counterprotests.

Celeste Chavez and Zach McGunagle

On Saturday, August 12, the regularly calm college town of Charlottesville, Virginia erupted into a white nationalist rally named “Unite the Right”. This rally was organized by Jason Kessler- a journalist, activist, and author who was previously associated with the far-right men’s organization Proud Boys. Far-right ralliers, neo-nazi groups, and KKK members were suited with white nationalist paraphernalia to protest the removal of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee Statue. In addition to visual action, the white nationalists chanted sayings such as “White lives matter!” and “Jews will not replace us” beginning the Friday night before the official protest (The Denver Post). As the protesters began their demonstrations, they clashed with counter-protesters opposing their agenda. Fights between the two sides broke out, including the use of chemical irritants, weaponry, and minimal police interference, which left 34 injured and three casualties, one of them being the victim of a car crash.
Later that day, Ohio native James Alex Fields Jr. (20) plowed into a heavily crowded group participating in the rally, killing a woman named Heather D. Heyer (32). This fatal crash which left 19 injured along with one victim, is being investigated as a criminal homicide (The Denver Post). Fields reportedly sped into a dense group of counter-protesters with his car and quickly fled the scene. According to The New York Times, Fields was later tracked down, “arrested and charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and failing to stop at the scene of a crash that resulted in a death”.
Freshman Adam Haas gives his viewpoint on the events.
“Heres what I think is interesting, I find it interesting that it’s starting to become a big thing now, my biggest question is what started it, and what made it such an interesting thing. My personal opinion is that its history and history is important. I don’t think it should be represented in a bad way it’s just a piece of history. Every country has its good and bad history,” said Haas.
That evening Donald Trump made a statement regarding the protests and fatalities. His response, however, sparked controversy among many. The majority of the public agree that Trump’s immediate statement regarding the protest was not strong enough, according to a poll by NPR. Furthermore, Trump failed to single out any specific group involved that weekend and instead stated that there was hatred “on many sides”. The very next day Trump came out with an official statement condemning the hate groups and racism in America.
Senior Hugo Cerdan thinks more could have been said by the president and gives his reasoning for that.
“I thought it wasn’t the right way to go about it, it’s not like people are protesting for conservative ideals, it’s for nazism straight up, and white supremacy. And that’s the kind of stuff that shouldn’t be allowed in the U.S., but people should still be able to voice their opinions, even if their dumb opinions if you ask me. I think he didn’t do the right thing there, definitely,” said Cerdan
As result of the Virginia protest, many other counter protests were organized across the U.S. In San Francisco’s Crissy field, an alt-right protest was planned by white nationalist group “Patriot Prayer” for Saturday the 26. This, in turn, started an outcry in the city, and many called for the protests permit to hold the event be denied.
This controversy, however, calls into question how the city and state value the First Amendment. Cerdan gives us his opinion on this.
“I don’t think protests should be prohibited. These are people from both the extreme left, and the extreme right, and eventually, it doesn’t matter how far right or how far left you go you eventually end up in the same place. To me, it’s just a bunch of violence and shutting people’s ideas down, and people should stop thinking like this. There’s no place for stuff like that in modern day America, and it shows how divided the country is. There needs to be something that brings people together, cause this does nothing to help with that,” said Cerdan.