The One Year Anniversary of Unite the Right is Here. A lot Has Happened

by | Aug 7, 2018 | VIRGINIA POLITICS

RVA Tank, Parkland Shooting, Democratic-nominee Spanberger, families separated at the border, KKK effigies, Governor Northam, punching Nazis, getting punched by Nazis.

It’s been a long year.

As we approach the one year anniversary of Unite the Right, the alt-right rally held in Charlottesville on Aug. 12 last year that ended with the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer, it’s hard to ignore the tension in the air. Whether that tension has increased or decreased, or the political dissension within our country is better or worse, Americans are certainly motivated. We’ve seen protest after protest, breaking news stories flying in each day with news of Russia, North Korea, Robert Mueller, Corey Stewart, and Jason Kessler.

The white nationalist movement has not slowed down, nor has it given up. Identity Evropa came to Richmond to pick up trash in hopes of normalizing their cause. The FBI has as many open cases concerning white supremacist propaganda online as they do for ISIS. And Unite the Right is happening again, but this time, its headed to Washington, D.C.

Here is a brief roundup of events from the past year to get you up to speed on the white nationalist movement in Virginia in preparation for this weekend’s latest appearance from our best-known racists (this list may not include every event related to white nationalism in Virginia):

August 2017: Jason Kessler, online blogger, and white nationalist, successfully organizes an alt-right rally called Unite the Right on Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, in the name of protecting the Confederate statues in two local parks. Several physical altercations occurred during the rally, and attendees were armed with bats, guns, or other weapons.

White Supremacists at Unite the Right

James Alex Fields, Jr., a white nationalist, drove his vehicle into a crowd of counter-protesters after the rally was deemed unlawful by police. His attack killed Heather Heyer and injured multiple others. Fields was part of Vanguard America, a white supremacist organization. He was placed in jail and denied bail.

President Trump suggested the blame for the violence rested with “many sides.”

September 2017: The Dreamers, young first-generation immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act, mobilized after Trump’s threat to end the program. Long marches between Charlottesville and Richmond as well as Charlottesville and Washington sprung up as September clung to summer temperatures. DACA was rescinded later that month by Trump, but at least temporarily upheld by the Supreme Court.

An activist group hung Ku Klux Klan effigies in Bryan Park.

The New Confederate States of America planned a rally in Richmond to support Confederate statues on Monument Avenue, claiming to be motivated by the Monument Avenue Historical Commission convened in June by Mayor Levar Stoney and tasked with providing recommendations for what to do with the statues. The rally took place on Sept. 16, attended by over 400 counter-protesters, a heavy police presence, and a small handful of CSA members who arrived in twos and threes. The CSA was severely outnumbered in what RVA Mag called a “win for Richmond,” as the protest ended peacefully.

Counter-Protestors in Richmond

Later that month, the FBI claimed white nationalists are just as dangerous as Islamic terrorists.

October 2017: At the beginning of the month, a circuit court judge in Charlottesville handed down a ruling signaling that the Commonwealth’s laws protecting war memorials could be retroactively applied to Virginia’s Confederate monuments.

The City of Charlottesville and several small businesses in the area filed a novel lawsuit to prevent future militia groups from entering their city again. This lawsuit is ongoing and continues to seek a verdict in August of 2018. Six defendants have settled since May 2018.

White nationalist Richard Spencer held a torch-lit rally in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, glorifying the Robert E. Lee monument and mimicking a similar torch-lit rally held on UVA’s campus the night before Unite the Right. Around two dozen white nationalists were present.

Jason Kessler began a new white nationalist group called New Byzantium following Unite the Right. It’s one of many new alt-right groups that continue to crop up to this day, largely spread through online forums.

November 2017: In a Democratic sweep, Ralph Northam became the new Governor of Virginia, joined by Justin Fairfax as Lt. Governor, and Mark Herring as Attorney General. It was a significant Democratic victory similar to the victory of then-Senator Obama when he won the presidency in 2008. The blue wave was accompanied by a new wave of female representatives in the General Assembly, the largest number of women to be elected to the GA in Virginia’s history. This included the first Latina women, the first Asian-American, and the first transgender woman to win a seat in the GA.

January 2018: Chris Cantwell, the notorious “Crying Nazi,” faced up to 20 years in jail for pepper-spraying counter-protesters at a torch-lit white supremacist rally on UVA’s campus the night before Unite the Right. At the beginning of the month, he attempted to sue anti-fascists, claiming that they discharged the pepper spray against themselves.

Thousands of women come to Richmond for the one-year anniversary of the Women’s March.

March 2018: Deandre Harris, a black man viciously beaten by white nationalists during the Unite the Right, was charged and then acquitted of assault by the District Court in Charlottesville. During Unite the Right, Harris was assaulted by six men with wooden pikes in the Market Street Parking Garage, eventually sustaining a spinal injury and receiving 10 staples in his head.

June 2018: Nathan Larson, a self-confessed pedophile and white supremacist, runs for Congress in Virginia. Previously an accountant in Charlottesville, Larson is running as an independent. Jason Allsup, another white nationalist who attended the Unite the Right rally, was elected as a Republican official in Washington state. This marked the beginning of many white supremacists and anti-Semitic candidates running on the Republican ticket in America ahead of midterm elections. This trend continued with Corey Stewart, Virginia’s Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. He appeared on CNN and struggled to answer questions about his past ties to white supremacists and anti-semites. He continues to be aggressive online and has not revoked his white nationalist ties.

Abigail Spanberger, the Democratic nominee for Virginia’s 7th District, wins a huge primary victory and will run against Dave Brat in the fall for the congressional seat.

Abigail Spanberger

President Trump begins his “zero tolerance” immigration policies and enacts legislation that separates immigrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. National and international outrage sparks protests throughout the Commonwealth, including one outside Dave Brat’s office, who publicly supported Trump’s decision.

The National Parks Service approved an application submitted by Jason Kessler for another alt-right rally to be held in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 11 and 12 this year. This will come to pass this weekend in Lafayette Park, Washington, D.C.

Identity Evropa visited Richmond for a little community service by picking up trash around town in an attempt to normalize their organization and beliefs. In Lexington, local restaurant owner Stephanie Wilkinson refused to service White House Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at her restaurant, The Red Hen. It was followed by five days of protests against and for her restaurant. In one instance, someone threw chicken feces on their storefront window.

July 2018: The Monument Avenue Commission recommended that the Jefferson Davis monument be removed from Monument Avenue, with Mayor Stoney’s approval. Later in August, an unknown individual vandalized the Robert E. Lee monument with red paint, writing “BLM” (Black Lives Matter) on the statue’s base. This is only the latest act of vandalism concerning the statues over the past year.

Chris Cantwell, the aforementioned “crying Nazi,” was barred from entering the Commonwealth for the next five years. He plead guilty to assault and battery for spraying two anti-racist activists with pepper spray the night before Unite the Right.

August 2018:

Now that August approaches, we look to another year that will hopefully not result in death or injury. Jason Kessler will be in D.C. this Sunday, Aug. 12, in Lafayette Square to march and protest in the name of “white civil rights.” Regular faces like Kessler, Spencer and former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke are said to appear and speak, although the movement has suffered serious divisions and other prominent white nationalists are disavowing Kessler.

A vigil will be held on Saturday, Aug. 11, in Charlottesville at 5 p.m. for Heather Heyer, in remembrance of her life, as well as an anti-racist march the next day in an attempt to heal from the events of last year.

Stay with RVA Mag on Instagram (@rvamag) and Twitter (@RVAmag)  for updates on these events this coming weekend.

Madelyne Ashworth

Madelyne Ashworth

Madelyne is a Richmond native and staff writer at RVA Magazine, primarily covering politics and white nationalism in Virginia. She spent the past four years working and living in D.C., earning her B.A. in journalism and running to the White House every time the President sneezed. Follow her on Twitter at @madelyne_ash.

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