Spencer Sunshine: I Almost Died in Charlottesville

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 13: Four-year-old Leo Griffin leaves a protest against the alt-right movement held to mourn the victims of yesterdays rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 13, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. One person was killed and 19 others were injured in Charlottesville when a car plowed into a group of activists who were preparing to march in opposition to a nearby white nationalists rally. Two police officers were also killed when a helicopter they were using to monitor the rally crashed. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The anti-racist demonstration against the August 12 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was the most frightening I have ever been to. Yes, I was in the crowd when a car—driven by a man who had been marching in uniform with a neo-Nazi group—slammed into the crowd, killing one and injuring at least 19. But that was only part of it. With armed militias on the streets playing an unclear role, police being even more opaque about their intent and 1,000 fascists on the streets of what seemed like a ghost town, this was not an ordinary demonstration.

Although the event was set to start at noon, attendees of the White nationalist “Unite the Right” rally started gathering at Emancipation Park early in the morning. Various counter-protesters met up in different parts of the city rather than holding a single, unified rally or march, and anti-racist clergy members headed directly to the park early in the morning. Around 9:30 a.m., the antifascists who ended up having fights with White nationalists arrived.

Authorities almost immediately lost control of the situation and declared the White nationalist rally and the anti-racist counter-demonstration an “unlawful assembly.” At about 1:40 p.m., the car rammed into anti-racists who were celebrating the fact that “Unite the Right” had been halted.

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