We’re nearly one year from the tiki torch march and Unite the Right rally that ended with the death of Heather Heyer. Heather an activist was, and to paraphrase her mother – her death only amplified her message.
Like many journalists I had been following the explosive growth of new hate groups across the country coinciding with the campaign and then the election of Donald Trump. White supremacist and nationalist groups had not gone away after the Civil Rights era, they just went underground. With the election of a black president, Barack Obama, they were able to start building their numbers again. It wasn’t until their voice had been given the greatest megaphone of modern times, the Presidents twitter account and then the White House Press office that people outside of lefty journalists and non-profits had actually started to notice.
Then Charlottesville happened. Many, especially on the right want to play the murder of Heather Heyer as a one off, as not representative of the group. The “alt-right” has even tried to portray the man who killed her as not one of theirs, as a lone wolf and even as a anti-Trump Soros funded plant. This is all not true.
Heyer was the only person murdered that day by the Unite the Right ralliers merely by chance. They tried to kill many more. Beyond the dozens that were in the path of the driver (I refuse to print his name) there was of course DeAndre Harris and Emily Gorcenski who was attacked the night before at the end of the tiki torch march. This was the scene she was in the middle of when she was attacked. (You can watch Emily’s interview in the excellent Frontline piece Documenting Hate: Charlottesville)
The attacks on people of color, Muslims and counter-protesters from the far right hasn’t stopped. In fact in 2017, murders by white supremacists doubled. From HuffPo:
The report, “Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2017,” published Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said extremists killed 34 people last year. Twenty of those victims – or 59 percent – were killed by right-wing extremists, a designation that includes white supremacists, members of the so-called “alt-right” and “alt-lite,” and members of the anti-government militia movement.
Of the 34 people killed, 18 were murdered by white supremacists, marking a 157 percent increase over the 7 people killed by white supremacists in 2016.
The Southern Poverty Law Center counts over 100 people either killed or injured by the “so-called “alt-right.
There have been more Unite the Right-esque protests in Shelbyville, Portland, Boston, Berkeley, Pikeville and Lansing, Michigan. Many other cities saw thinly veiled white supremacist rallies in the Anti-Shariah protests. I say all of this to emphasize the fact that while the white supremacist groups may be not on TV as much as they used to be – they’re still out there.
With that said, there have been victories. Four people are awaiting sentencing in the DeAndre Harris attack. One of the main groups at UTR, the Traditionalist Workers Party has broken apart. The killer of Heather Heyer is awaiting federal hate crime charges (which weren’t initially placed).
The main stream media which so often refuses to label anything racist, unless it’s wearing a white robe and burning a cross was finally able to discuss racist and anti-immigrant groups after Charlottesville. They didn’t do a great job but at least the discussion was being had. Only in the last couple of weeks though have commentators and some journalists finally conceded to the fact that there was no way they could not deny that the President himself was a racist.
The Unite the Right rally which was supposed to have brought together the different factions of the American far right from Proud Boys to Neo-Nazis may end actually succeeding in bringing the many factions of the left together as one – at least on this issue. PBS, MSNBC and Netflix have or will be airing documentaries on confronting the white supremacy problem in America. It’s small steps, we haven’t broken through to the New York Times yet, but maybe one day.
This weekend hundreds of anti-fascists, DC locals, members of ANSWER, and many other groups will descend on the inexplicably permitted sequel to the rally in Charlottesville. This time it will be happening in front of the White House. Jason Kessler, the organizer of UTR will be joined by many other white nationalists, and white supremacists like the KKK’s David Duke. Assuming police coverage is as it is rumored to be they’ll make speeches and hold their rally almost exactly one year, give or take an hour, from the time that Heather Heyer was murdered and DeAndre Harris was beaten.
If you’re in the DC area and would like more info on how to join the people confronting this unbelievably government permitted mob, please sign up at Shutitdowndc.org. As there is likely to be some actions in Charlottesville, follow @StopTheNextUTR and @ZyahnaB on twitter. If you can’t make it but want to support the people of Charlottesville, donate to the Charlottesville Community Resilience Fund.
Zach D. Roberts is a photo/video journalist for NationofChange.org. His photojournalism has been featured in Time Magazine's Top 100 Photos of the Year, People Magazine's Photos of the Year and was awarded at FotoDC. Zach is co-produced Greg Palast's full length documentary, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. He is currently working on a book about the #resistance of 2017.
Originally published by Nation of Change