OBERLIN — A small crowd gathered for a peace vigil at Tappan Square on Sunday night after a protest in Charlottesville, Va., turned deadly over the weekend.
Lili Sandler of Lorain County Rising led the group in a walk around the square before reading a statement from City Manager Rob Hillard, who was unable to make the event because of car trouble in Michigan.
“I wish to offer my support to the city of Charlottesville in this very difficult time,” Sandler read aloud. “Oberlin stands in solidarity with the city of Charlottesville. We want to be clear. Oberlin is against racism. Oberlin is against sexism. Oberlin is against bullying. Oberlin will always stand for peace. Oberlin will always stand for hope. Oberlin will always stand for togetherness.”
Did you miss the vigil? Watch our video.
Lili Sandler, with Lorain County Rising, raises her candle Sunday evening as she reads remarks from Oberlin City Manager Rob Hillard to a crowd in Tappan Square.
ANNA NORRIS / CHRONICLE Enlarge
From what Sandler read, Hillard said he has heard Charlottesville is a strong community that will continue to stand for its beliefs, which include removing a Confederate statute from a park, prompting the “Unite the Right” event this weekend.
The rally in Charlottesville began Friday and continued into Saturday where chaos erupted as neo-Nazis, skinheads, Ku Klux Klan members and other white supremacist groups arrived. Counter-protesters were also on hand, and the two sides clashed, with people throwing punches, hurling water bottles and unleashing chemical sprays. Officials have not provided a crowd estimate but it appeared to number well over 1,000.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency, police in riot gear ordered people out of the streets, and helicopters circled overhead. Then, as the counter-protesters marched a few blocks from the statue, a Dodge Challenger, allegedly driven by James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Maumee, Ohio, tore into the crowd, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer as she was crossing the street.
Hours later, a helicopter crashed, killing two state police troopers, Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Berke M.M. Bates, one day shy of his 41st birthday.
Fields was arrested and has been charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count of leaving the scene of an accident in the incident that also injured 19.
Clayton Koppes, the interim president of Oberlin College, said the peace vigil was another in a long line of Oberlin events that showed its zero tolerance for racism.
“This is one of those amazing Oberlin turnouts,” he said. “Oberlin has stood for an end to racism and white supremacy since its founding. We have seen it stand for peace and justice. Tonight, we gather here together in solidarity with Charlottesville and in affirmation of everything Oberlin College stands for.”
Brenda Grier-Miller, of Oberlin, center, sings “This Little Light of Mine” with others Sunday evening during the vigil at Tappan Square.
ANNA NORRIS / CHRONICLE Enlarge
Oberlin College professor A.G. Miller said he hoped people continued to remember the events in Charlottesville and the lights they lit at the vigil.
“This light should burn in your hearts, and it should not matter what the obstacles are,” he said. “In this time and this era, we’re going to face far more problems than just what happened in Charlottesville. The forces of evil have been unleashed, and we have to stand strong with love and tenacity and courage, and we have to stand push back.”
Peace Community Church co-pastor Mary Hammond said one of the things that has been discussed at her church is catching courage from one another and after the events in Charlottesville, people should continue to do so.
“We are here tonight because we need our community,” she said. “We need to offer a public response to what has happened, not just the last few days but the last few centuries. It is on us and part of why I am here is to be with Charlottesville and confess that it is my battle to fight. Two nights the fire came from neo-Nazis, white supremacists, the KKK and other hate groups and tonight that fire comes from a candlelight vigil, a showing of solidarity and hope.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Contact Katie Nix at 329-7129 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @KatieHNix.
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