POLITICS

Charlottesville Faces White Supremacist Threats, Robocalls, Doxing After Unite The Right Anniversary

Racism didn't disappear with the torch-bearing marchers last year.

On Aug. 14, two days after the first anniversary of the deadly violence surrounding the Unite the Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, someone posted a series of tweets with more than 600 names and locations. The person said they were the names of anti-fascist activists who protested the neo-Nazis who took over public spaces in the city last year.

“OMG, this is so embarrassing... I appear to have accidentally posted over 600 names of #Antifa members.. Sure would be a shame if folks downloaded these and shared them,” the Twitter user wrote.

If there was any confusion about what one would do with such a list ― which apparently included names of Charlottesville residents ― the person disingenuously wrote, “Certainly hope no one does anything NEFARIOUS with this information.. Like doxx a bunch of screaming communist cucks into the stoneage..”

Perpetually, every day feels like Aug. 13. the Rev. Phil Woodson, associate pastor, First United Methodist Church in Charlottesville

The posts are still on Twitter, despite a clear message of harassment and hate. A slew of local activists reported the user, to no avail. Each post ― containing information that could get someone harassed, injured or killed ― was retweeted, amplified thousands of times.

On Aug. 17, a bus draped in Confederate flags and signage supporting President Donald Trump parked in front of Charlottesville’s First United Methodist Church to allow passengers to hop off and flood Market Street Park. They gawked and took pictures of the site of the Unite the Right rally, where a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee still stands.

The bus sat, parked illegally, in deplorable contrast to the signage on the church, left over from the anniversary. “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in UNITY!” one sign read.

The church’s associate pastor, the Rev. Phil Woodson, snapped a photo of the bus and posted it on Twitter, writing, “August 12th was neither the beginning nor the end of overt white supremacist action in Charlottesville.”

He remembers looking out toward the park during the rally and seeing Nazi flags and tear gas, he said, the imagery of hate and the effect it had on the people in his community.

When he saw that bus, he felt the same, he said.

“Perpetually, for some, every day feels like Aug. 13. We live in this constant state of fear. We feel as if we live under occupation by white supremacy,” Woodson told HuffPost. “For someone to be driving that bus through the city of Charlottesville, so close to the anniversary of Aug. 12, and to be driving it specifically downtown, around that park and around that statue, shows a complete disregard for the people who live in this community and who have been traumatized by an act of domestic terrorism.”

He echoed a sentiment that many locals have been pleading with the rest of the world to understand since last year: White supremacists and neo-Nazis didn’t just pass through Charlottesville; they’ve always been there. And every day, the community faces a barrage of hate and retraumatizing events from white supremacists and their cohort.

Woodson estimated that there are “two or three overt actions by white supremacists” in Charlottesville every month, with more than “50 documented cases” of white supremacist action there since the summer of 2017.

The news media reported on the Ku Klux Klan march there in July 2017, the torch-bearing marchers led by white supremacist Richard Spencer the night before the rally, the bureaucratic bickering over Confederate monuments that dot the town and court cases of white supremacists who attacked people the weekend of the rally.

But the racist menace didn’t go away when the rally was over. The uproar on social media and attention on the news may have died down, but for locals, the threat is constant and visceral.

On Saturday, CBS19 received a robocall that was making its way around Charlottesville. It called for ethnic cleansing and the repeal of the 15th Amendment, which gave voting rights to African-Americans. The call said it was paid for by the Road to Power, a pro-Nazi, white supremacist, anti-Semitic podcast out of Sandpoint, Idaho. 

The Albemarle County Police Department and Southern Poverty Law Center traced the calls to Scott D. Rhodes, who runs the podcast. The SPLC told HuffPost that he’s connected to hate literature dissemination from Idaho to Virginia, anti-Semitic robocalls targeting Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in May and other hate messages spread all the way to Spokane, Washington.

All this hateful rhetoric has had a lasting effect on Charlottesville’s people. They’re not surprised to see it spring up day to day because it is perennial. For them, the Unite the Right war continues.

“It’s difficult for our community to heal, as long as we keep being wounded in this way,” Woodson said.

Healing can come in many forms; most immediately, locals want some indication that the police, the University of Virginia and city are on their side. When activists ― including many university students ― held a Rally for Justice against hate on Aug. 11, they were met by dozens of armored police officers who screamed, “Hold the line,” as they flanked a peaceful, unopposed demonstration near the rotunda at the school. The city set up barricades and metal detectors around the rotunda in order to screen anyone coming and going. (Few entered the screening area, and the rally was moved to a nearby lawn.)

Throughout the day and night, activists were surrounded by the law. The same time last year, hundreds of white supremacists and neo-Nazis wormed their way through the school’s campus and beat and maced students at the rotunda, with no police resistance. They did the same the next day at Unite the Right.

“We saw on Aug. 11 when the police stood idle while Nazis pepper-sprayed and attacked students, and all the while the university knew they were coming. They were in communication with the Nazis,” said Kibriti Majuto, 20, a spokesman for UVa Students United, which works toward “social, economic, and racial justice,” according to the group’s Facebook page.

“This year, the students tried to have a peaceful rally at the lawn, and we saw riot police in full gear coming toward the students. What message does that send to the public? We don’t know what side the police are on.”

Before the Rally for Justice, UVa Students United and the community released a short list of demands:

  • Payment or Waiving of Medical Fees for ALL survivors of August 11th and 12th

  • Denouncement of White Supremacy in the form of issuing Lifelong No Trespass orders to identified White Supremacists present on August 11th

  • Transparency for the undisclosed profits raised by the Concert for Charlottesville [a benefit concert headlined by the likes of Dave Matthews Band, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams, Ariana Grande and Coldplay]

Those demands have not been met, Majuto said.

Until they are, the healing process can’t begin, and Charlottesville’s activists will remain under siege by white supremacists, neo-Nazis, KKK members and their own city officials. 

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