Charlottesville's troubles began on the evening of Friday, August 11th when packs of white supremacists from across the country began gathering at Nameless Field on the University of Virginia campus. Students playing volleyball in a nearby court evacuated as the marchers multiplied.
After the group grew to its ultimate size of approximately 400, they established security teams and ignited their torches. Media jostled for position and a drone buzzed overhead as the marchers reveled in their numbers.
Among the crowd were Ben Daley and Tom Gillen, members of the Rise Above Movement (RAM), a group of street-brawling white supremacists based in California.
Jason Kessler (above) led the congregation as they moved haphazardly through the UVA campus. He was surrounded by a security detail and a handful of notable white supremacist celebrities including Richard Spencer, Evan McLaren, and Christopher Cantwell.
The procession continued through UVA campus yelling "Blood and Soil!", a Nazi slogan, and "You will not replace us!", a refrain originating from the European Identitarian movement. While a couple of police officers were present at the outskirts of the march, they did not intervene as journalists and photographers were threatened or assaulted.
The white supremacists marched through UVA campus until they reached the Thomas Jefferson monument where they surrounded a small group of protesters -- mostly college students -- who encircled the statue protectively. As the students chanted "Black lives matter!", the white supremacists attacked, beating the protesters with torches, drenching them with mace, and kicking them while they struggled to hold their ground.
Neither the Charlottesville police, nor the clergy and parishioners across the street moved to protect the protesters who -- only having the aid of a small group of stalwart anti-fascists -- were forced to flee.
Police waited until the fighting was over and most of the white supremacists dispersed before lining up with cudgels at the ready to push injured students, protesters, citizens, and journalists away from the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.
Quiet, and a sense of defeat, descended as people left in small groups, trying to reach their cars and homes in safety.
Unite the Right attendees started arriving at Emancipation Park (formerly Lee Park) on Saturday, August 12th, hours in advance of their permitted start time. Despite being provided police protected entry at the rear of the park -- where they would not have come into contact with protesters at all -- many of the white supremacists chose to walk through one of the front entrances. These entrances were guarded by III% militia groups armed with assault rifles and wearing tactical gear. Militia groups like these are generally seen supporting white supremacists such as the man in the white helmet above, who was later seen brutally beating Deandre Harris in a parking garage a couple of blocks away.
Vanguard America -- the white supremacist group of which James Fields, the alleged murderer of Heather Heyer, appeared to be a member -- made up a significant portion of the early Unite the Right crowd. Vanguard America is part of the Nationalist Front, a US-based neo-Nazi conglomeration that includes the National Socialist Movement (NSM), the Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP), and the League of the South (LoS).
Here, William Fears -- arrested in Gainsville, FL for attempted murder after a speaking engagement by Richard Spencer at the University of Florida on October 19, 2017 -- displays a Nazi salute to the media and crowds of protesters.
The protesters started the day as mostly clergy, holding hands and singing songs, but grew steadily as antifascists, union members, angry citizens, and others came to show the white supremacists they weren't welcome in Charlottesville.
Members of the Traditionalist Worker Party arrived at Emancipation Park, ready to fight, and met a wall of protesters. They immediately charged at the protesters, initiating the first major skirmish of the day. The Traditionalist Worker Party is a neo-Nazi organization that recruits primarily from the working class in the midwest.
Michael Hill, leader of the League of the South, and Matthew Heimbach, leader of the Traditionalist Worker's Party, struggle to join their white supremacist brethren through a wall of protesters. League of the South is primarily a southern secessionist organization, but it has ties to both the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement and Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County (ACTBAC), a neo-Confederate group based out of Alamance County, NC.
Throughout the morning, small conflicts erupted in the street in front of Emancipation Park. Protesters held hard banners in groups to defend against thrown projectiles and white supremacists who started pushing out of the permitted area and into the street. The Unite the Right attendees preferred personal shields advertizing their affiliations which are often considered prized possessions.
As they pushed out from their permitted space in the park, the white supremacists used mace and tear gas on the protesters in the street. Seen here is man believed to be Alex Michael Ramos, another of the men that was photographed savagely beating Deandre Harris in the Water Street Garage. Ramos appears to be both a member of the Proud Boys as well as the Georgia III% militia, with which he infamously posed alongside Georgia Senator Michael Williams at a “March Against Sharia” rally in Atlanta.
Numerous skirmishes broke out in the streets where protesters chanted and attempted to deny white supremacists access to Emancipation Park. Street medics played a pivotal role in mitigating injuries, helping those injured by tear gas and pepper spray, running into the street to cover gas grenades with buckets, and providing water and snacks to those who needed them.
Protesters took trophies, burned flags, and agitated the white supremacists in some amazingly athletic feats. Here, some of the most impressive of these protesters take a moment to relax and regroup.
At approximately 11:30 AM, before the Unite the Right rally was even scheduled to begin, police declared everyone present an unlawful assembly and begin to push both the white supremacists and protesters away from Emancipation Park. Conflicting and contradictory orders were issued as police attempted to clear the street of people, and even many of the officers didn’t appear to know where they should be or where they should go. Despite all of the melees and the use of gas and mace, there were no attempts by police to intervene prior to this.
At approximately 1:45 PM, hours after the white supremacists retreated, a car plowed through a crowd of celebrating protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring at least 19 others. The car was allegedly driven by James Fields who was arrested and charged with second-degree murder and five other felonies associated with this terrorist attack.
Antifascist street medics acted immediately, being closer than Charlottesville first responders. Without their expert medical attention at this critical time, more of the injuries sustained during this attack could have proven fatal.
Eventually, Charlottesville EMTs arrived and began to move the injured and dead from the streets.
Later in the afternoon, a vigil was held for Heather Heyer; one of many across the world.
Heather famously wrote, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." For many, this statement has become a directive in the wake of Heather's death, but remember that she wrote those words before she was murdered by white supremacists. It is a tragedy that this murder must be the catalyst that causes many of us to pay attention and, for many, this outrage will only burn until the next news cycle.
Before Charlottesville, The Daily Stormer, the largest Alt-Right website on the Internet, wrote:
"It will be a long and bumpy road, for sure. But now, thanks to the magnitude of this event, I truly believe – more than I ever did | before – that we will eventually win this struggle and secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.
It is our destiny.
Next stop: Charlottesville, VA.
Final stop: Auschwitz."
What happened in Charlottesville was not a surprise to anyone paying attention. It was terrible inevitability.