This is not the Charlottesville I know.
Torch-toting white nationalists whose chants of “White lives matter” and “You will not replace us” pierced the night Friday as they marched down the marble steps of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia.
Some 12 hours later, armed militia groups stood ground in a city park in protest of the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, the trigger for a “Unite the Right” rally.
Soon, fists were flying and pepper spray permeated the air as fascists and counter-protesters brawled near the park. Trash and bottles became missiles; wooden poles from flags and banners jousting sticks.
And then the ultimate act of terror: A car accelerated down a narrow street in the city’s quaint district near the Downtown Mall, a street lined with peaceful protesters, and slammed into the crowd, leaving one dead and nearly 20 injured.
The hatred, the bigotry – the bloodshed. How could this be happening at the home of my beloved alma mater and in a progressive city that boasts a warm and inclusive environment?
Charlottesville, a once-sleepy central Virginia town, has proudly picked up accolades in recent years: one of the happiest and healthiest places by Business Insider, best college town by Travelers Today, the fifth-best place to live in 2017 by the Livability index. It is a city rich in ethnic diversity and steeped in history. It is a place with a vibrant cultural scene and nightlife, even being named one of the best small cities for foodies by Travelocity.
It is a green city nestled near the Blue Ridge mountains and is the gateway to Shenandoah National Park. It is home to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s mountaintop plantation.