A vi­o­lent clash be­tween white na­tion­al­ists and pro­test­ers leaves a young woman dead and a na­tion search­ing for an­swers

WHO - - Content - By Jeff Trues­dell with Diane Herbst, Wendy Gross­man Kan­tor and Tier­ney Mcafee

In the wake of a tragedy, re­silience surges in the US city of Char­lottesville.

It was sup­posed to be a peace­ful show of solidarity against racism and neo-nazi ha­tred. Beth Foster and hun­dreds of oth­ers from around the coun­try had gath­ered in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, on Aug. 12 to block a planned march by white na­tion­al­ists, who were protest­ing against the city’s de­ci­sion to re­move a statue of Con­fed­er­ate icon Gen­eral Robert E. Lee from a park. “Our plan was to link arms and block the en­trance to the park,” Foster, di­rec­tor of Mercy Junc­tion Jus­tice and Peace Cen­ter in Chat­tanooga, tells WHO. “We formed a line and held each other’s arms and sang ‘This Lit­tle Light of Mine’. ”

Yet what be­gan for her as a “beau­ti­ful day” ended in hor­ror. As clashes be­tween the marchers and counter-pro­test­ers grew in­creas­ingly vi­o­lent, po­lice or­dered both groups to dis­perse, and that’s when 20-yearold James Alex Fields Jr, of Maumee, Ohio, al­legedly sped his 2010 Dodge Chal­lenger car into a line of ve­hi­cles, caus­ing a chain re­ac­tion that killed counter-pro­tes­tor Heather Heyer, 32, a para­le­gal, and in­jured at least 19 oth­ers. Says Foster: “I saw the worst evil I have ever wit­nessed.”

While the US Jus­tice Depart­ment opened a civil rights in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the day’s events, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump con­demned the vi­o­lence, call­ing out “the KKK, neoNazis, white su­prem­a­cists and other hate groups that are re­pug­nant to ev­ery­thing we hold dear as Amer­i­cans,” af­ter crit­ics faulted his ini­tial re­sponse that blamed “this egre­gious dis­play of ha­tred, big­otry and vi­o­lence on many sides.”

But Foster saw only one side in the “thou­sands of he­roes” she ob­served shut­tling peo­ple to safety, giv­ing them com­fort. “I saw the great­est love and solidarity and the power we have as peo­ple when we stand to­gether,” she says. Heyer “died do­ing what was right,” her mother wrote on a Go­fundme page that raised nearly $225,000 in two days. “My heart is bro­ken, but I am for­ever proud of her.”

Res­cue work­ers tended to the in­jured af­ter a car ploughed into a crowd op­pos­ing white na­tion­al­ists on Aug. 12.

“Heather was such a sweet soul,” a friend says of Heyer, re­mem­bered in a Char­lottesville vigil.

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