They were chanting all sorts of white supremacist chants, gearing up for a fight. I expected them to give some speeches, but what actually happened was the march came and surrounded us and kept encroaching closer and closer. I had two people, one with a swastika pin in my face hurling transphobic insults, homophobic insults telling me I should commit suicide. They kept encroaching and shoving me. I put my arms up and elbows out to try to shield myself as they were pushing me back into the statue. Then a fight broke out to my right. I tried to pull somebody out of the pile. My feed cut off, then somebody had sprayed some sort of chemical. There were 400 people surrounding a group of like 20. Then they proceeded to beat us up. There was a young woman in a wheelchair that looked pretty banged up. Several people had swollen faces from the chemicals.
We got out and I went home. I eventually went to a safe house. I had had threats made against me all week—death threats—because I’ve been speaking out against this rally since it was announced.
Given that I was targeted, I had no interest in being on the front lines yesterday, so I documented the rally from a nearby park where we had a permit to stage a counter demonstration. We had medic stations, mental health support, food. There were two sites like that, I shifted to the other at McGuffey Park. While we were there we learned that the alt-right had been cleared out of the park. They were dispersing and police had barred them from going to any more parks. Our concern at that point was because they were mobile, and in trucks driving around downtown.
There was 400 people surrounding a group of like 20. Then they proceeded to beat us up.
We got a message that multiple people put out that people from the black community had requested people come and be present. Not to fight, just to support. We decided either we could stay here and celebrate or stand in solidarity with the black community, so we assembled a small group of people and decided let’s head down there.
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I left with a group of maybe two dozen people, and we started walking downtown. As we walked down the street another group of people joined up. I don’t know where they came from, or what they were doing. I was on the sidewalk, saying let’s get out of the road. We got down to the point where the 4th St. intersection is, where the attack happened. There was no riot, everyone was celebrating and singing, and then that’s when the attack happened. Then he drove into us.
He drove into the back of vehicle that crashed into another vehicle. I was about 15 feet away from that. My first thought was that this was a terrorist attack like London or Germany. I expected him to jump out of the vehicle with a gun and start shooting. My immediate reaction was to run. I drew my weapon in case he came out and started shooting. By the time I got through the crowd he had started backing up. I re-holstered my weapon and took out my phone and started streaming. I realized at that point I’d lost my security detail and friends, and we went home, I said we need to go home, I don’t want to see this anymore.
Alexander Rigby, a 21-year-old UVA senior and dual-citizen originally from Liverpool.
The way the UVA campus works is you have the lawn side where undergraduates and professors live. The other side of the rotunda is where the Thomas Jefferson statue is and that’s where they all gathered in the circle Friday night with the torches.
We had gotten notice through the administration that something might be going on. Me and my parents and my friend had gone out to dinner downtown. We walked back on the way to my room and walked up at the point where the white nationalists had surrounded the local community members and students around the statue. That was when it all kicked off.
You could see torches being thrown, chemicals being dispersed. Somebody, I think one of the students, screamed “Fire!” They were throwing these bloody torches. The police ran up, got through the crowd and the crowd sort of broke off. And that’s when a few—I don’t know what type—of flaming oil cans were thrown that were left on the ground from the torches. The police tried their best to clear it. Then there was a moment where they shut the whole thing down. It was an absolute mess. It was really impromptu, the university didn’t have much notice.
Charlottesville is a beautiful city with a beautiful progressive culture of openness and a university that’s worked hard to confront sexual assault and racism. That’s what’s great here—we have a culture of dialogue and civility in which intellectual discussion can be had between the right and the left. But extremism is not accepted at UVA at all. Hatred is not accepted.
Next week, when everybody moves back, we’ll move forward in the spirit of UVA with love and acceptance and show these people this is not our university this is not our town and this is not our country.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.