On August 11 and 12, 2017, UVa and Charlottesville were subjected to a violent assault by the so-called “alt-right”: a motley collection of white supremacists, white nationalists, Confederate nostalgists, neo-Nazis, and assorted other people who hate everything that UVa and Charlottesville embody. There has been exhaustive news coverage of the events, but I think insufficient attention has gone to the response by ordinary Cvillians. My family and I were out of town, so we didn’t have to decide what to do when the Nazis came, but our friend and neighbor Kelly Ceppa was here. Below is her account, originally posted to Facebook and reproduced here with her permission:
Dear Friends and Family, near and far,
Thank you for all of your messages of care and concern. We have had a very eventful weekend here in Charlottesville and many of you have seen that I was there in the midst of it to stand for Peace. I am home safely now and I want to tell you the rest of the story, the part that was not covered by the press. Yes, there was violence – both in words and in deeds – by some people on both sides. But there was SO MUCH MORE LOVE than hate, SO MANY MORE GOOD deeds than bad, SO MANY MORE PEOPLE standing for Diversity, Racial Equality, Peace, Justice... than there were "Protesters" of any kind. I am SO PROUD of my Community here in Charlottesville! We prepared ourselves well for this attack –yes, attack! "Protesters" came armed with shields, clubs, helmets, and heavily armed militia to "exercise their right to free speech"??! No, this was an act of terrorism. And though the predictions for violence were grave, the people of Charlottesville banded together and came out in droves to stand up to this. The Clergy of all the churches of all religions joined together to form a collective to respond. In the past few weeks, we trained ourselves in Non-violent protest technique, legal rights, de-escalation techniques... We studied the history of racism and the oppression of blacks in our past. People from church congregations, peace groups, justice groups, etc bonded together to plan their responses to this, both at the scene and off site. There were counter events surrounding all sides of the confrontation and violence. Volunteers staffed medical tents to serve ALL injured persons. Legal observers and marshals circulated to try to keep the situation calm. I want to call out the First United Methodist Church located directly adjacent to the scene of this event for hosting "safe space" and offering both medical and emotional aid for EVERYONE.
As a person who enjoys white privilege, I felt that it was very important to come out and to be present and to stand with those who are more vulnerable in my community. It was a strange thing to feel like my city was under siege. And, it was. I am heartened by the ~700 Support Vigils that took place all across our Nation yesterday! Wow! THAT is the America I want to live in!
So, now that the dust has settled, from where I stand, I see a Community STANDING TALL where the commitment to JUSTICE and DIVERSITY is now stronger than ever! Despite 3 deaths and many injuries, this is a day to Celebrate the incompressible Spirit of Charlottesville, of America, of Humanity! I keep recalling the songs from the clergy line at the rally, "...over my head, I hear freedom/justice/music in the air..." and Love is winning! I have no doubts in my mind about where we are headed. We will RISE to meet this challenge!
- Kelly Ceppa, 14 August 2017, Charlottesville