As Americans were processing the horrific events of Charlottesville, Virginia, dozens gathered in front of the Martin Luther King, Jr., statue to call for an end to the violence and the bigotry that fuels this violence.
What happened this weekend?
The Charlottesville “Unite the Right” event was a culmination of a resurgent “alt-right” white supremacist movement that has rallied around Donald Trump as its leader. The Charlottesville white supremacist gathering first turned violent Friday night, and the violence only escalated Saturday when a car believed to be driven by Nazi sympathizer James Fields drove into a crowd and killed anti-fascist protester Heather Heyer.
Though some Trump allies have tried to distance the President from white supremacists, Donald Trump’s own muted response only intensified outrage over a politician who’s channeled xenophobia for his own benefit. Trump instead launched a much harsher Twitter tirade against Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier this morning, after he resigned from Trump’s American Manufacturing Council in protest of Trump’s response to Charlottesville.
“The greatest weapon we can use is the weapon of love. […] If we just come together, that’s more of a threat.”
– Rev. Stretch Sanders
As the nation was still trying to make sense of what had just occurred in Charlottesville, speakers at Sunday’s vigil in North Las Vegas addressed the root cause of this latest outbreak of violence. Local activist Rev. Stretch Sanders called upon the white folks in the audience to raise their voices whenever they see discrimination. “If you are somebody white who has power, you have an obligation to use that power to help other people.”
Sanders then explained why people shouldn’t be too surprised by what happened in Charlottesville. “For every action, there’s a reaction… Wherever darkness is, crimes are being committed.” Sanders called upon attendees to stick together and support each other through these trying times. “With all of us empowering each other, we will live in a powerful nation.”
“Today is not about being Republican or Democrat. Today is about being an American.”
– Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas)
Kihuen condemned Trump’s long delay in placing the blame for the violence where it belongs. “We have a White House right now that refuses to take responsibility […] to say this is wrong.” Kihuen also added, “What happened yesterday is an act of domestic terrorism by white supremacists and neo-Nazis. That’s not acceptable in the United States of America.”
Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani echoed Sanders’ and Kihuen’s remarks when she addressed the crowd… And explained why she felt compelled to drive into North Las Vegas to stand with them. “If we don’t stand up for what we believe in, we will not be successful.”
“If you don’t stand up, you are silent.”
– Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani
— Nevada Forward (@NevadaForward) August 14, 2017
The group later joined hands, then took turns sharing their own thoughts and feelings with each other. The event remained peaceful throughout the evening, even as the community and the nation continued to come to grips with the violence in Virginia.