There have been a lot of startling visuals that have come out of the white supremacist hate marches in Charlottesville, Virginia over the last 18 hours and more will likely follow. Those need to be seen and processed. Not just the numbers and the (tiki) torches, but the faces of people brazen and seemingly proud to be known for the bile that they spew. This is happening in our world, on our watch. But we also need to hear the sounds coming from Charlottesville. Not the Nazi nonsense — their party line is as familiar as it is stunning that it still carries weight with some individuals in 2017 — but those who are standing up to the hate.
Dr. Wes Bellamy is the 30-year-old Vice Mayor of Charlottesville and the President of 100 Black Men Of Central VA. He’s also someone who has had to work through his own bigoted feelings in the past, drawing criticism for anti-white and other controversial tweets he authored between 2009 and 2014. But Bellamy has since disowned those views, saying that he had come to “some false conclusions about the world” while trying to “mature.” And if you need evidence of his growth, you need look no further than his powerful remarks to a diverse group of counter-protesters on the front lines in Charlottesville who are letting their presence be known.
Here’s the text:
This is a celebration, not a funeral. If you’re here to be sad, then go home. If you’re here because you think something bad is going to happen, I need you to pray but then you probably need to go home. Because the good people that I know that are here today are not only willing to keep us safe and stand up, but we’re here to show the world — not just Charlottesville, not just Virginia — that this is our community. This is our city. And this, this city, Charlottesville, Virginia, all the zip codes that it includes, is a city that not only sticks together, not only that loves each other, but will not tolerate the hate, the bigotry, and the racism that come from the outside to pull us apart.
This city. I’m not talking about nowhere else. I’m not talking about Staunton, I’m not talking about Lynchburg, I’m not talking about Richmond, DC, New York. Anywhere else. No disrespect to those places. But I’m talking about Charlottesville. This city. This city is one that stands up tall. This city is one that represents what you see [in] everybody out here today. People from different races, from different views, from different ages, from different backgrounds, from different socioeconomic statuses, different sexual orientation, different religions, different creeds, in some cases different principles. But the one thing we all agree on is that the bigotry and the hate and the white supremacists will not take over this place. That’s the city that I love. That’s the city that I love. That’s your city. That’s our city.
The same reporter (HuffPo’s Christopher Mathias) who captured Bellamy’s remarks has been tweeting a troubling collage of videos from Charlottesville showing the use of mace, an unruly crowd, and, at what was supposed to be the start of the official white supremacist rally at noon, a park that had been cleared by authorities who declared the event an “unlawful assembly.”
With all that in mind and with concern about what comes next, it’s good to keep the resiliency and concerns of Charlottesville’s diverse and conscientious citizens in mind. This is all of our reality, but it’s their city in duress. Today.