The opponents of white nationalist groups should confront them with love rather than hate at any future protests, the Rev. Lia Scholl said Thursday night at a vigil for the victims of last Saturday’s events in Charlottesville, Va.
“Every time they incite you to anger, they win,” Scholl told more than 250 people who gathered at Temple Emanuel in Winston-Salem. “Maybe you can feel a renewed purpose to fight white supremacy.”
Scholl, the pastor at Wake Forest Baptist Church, was among the religious leaders who spoke at the vigil, which was held five days after white nationalists staged a rally in Charlottesville to protest the city’s decision to remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Counterprotesters flooded the city, and members of both sides fought.
Heather Heyer, 32, was killed Saturday when a car mowed down counterprotesters. James Alex Fields, 20, of Maumee, Ohio and a Nazi sympathizer, has been charged with murder and other offenses in connection with Heyer’s death. Two Virginia state troopers died when their helicopter crashed near Charlottesville.
During the vigil, three singers led the audience in singing songs from the civil rights era of the 1960s such as “Woke this up this morning with my mind stayed on freedom,” “Ain’t nothing gonna turn me around,” and “We shall not be moved.”
Scholl told the audience that she and a friend went to Charlottesville to oppose the KKK, neo Nazis and pro Confederate groups. She saw about 400 white nationalists march through the campus of the University of Virginia last Friday night. The following day, she saw white nationalists gather near a synagogue in the city.
“They were scary as hell,” Scholl said. “We were afraid of being hit, shot or worse.”
As a counterprotester, Scholl and her fellow demonstrators “were ready to be arrested, but not ready to die,” she said.
Scholl and some other counterprotesters had gone to First United Methodist Church in Charlottesville before Heyer was killed, Scholl said.
Bishop Todd Fulton, the social justice chairman for the Winston-Salem Ministers’ Conference and Vicinity, urged the audience to donate money to the GoFundMe page set up for Heyer’s family and read about the 10 ways to fight hate on the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center. The center monitors hate groups in the country.
Fulton said that Heyer’s death was an act of terrorism, similar to the deaths of four black girls who were killed in a church bombing in Birmingham, Ala. in September 1963. People who stand for justice and equality will prevail over the KKK and the neo Nazis, he said.
“We are wearing the KKK down,” Fulton said. “We are wearing the Nazis down. We will not be defeated.”
Rabbi Mark Cohn of Temple Emanuel told the audience that the United States of 2017 will not yield to neo Nazis like Czechoslovakia in Central Europe, which Nazi Germany invaded in 1939 and persecuted its Jewish population.
“We will not be intimidated by the white supremacists who stood at the synagogue in Charlottesville,” Cohn said.