Peace vigil held to support Virgina victims

A candlelight vigil was held Sunday night on Tappan Square, where 150 people gathered to stand in solidarity with the victims who were killed and injured at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Hundreds of neo-Nazis, members of the Ku Klux Klan, and other white supremacists descended on Charlottesville on Friday and Saturday, many carrying flags with swastikas and chanting Nazi slogans.

They hoped to funnel the largest white nationalist rally in decades, and to protest the upcoming removal of a statue of Confederate icon Robert E. Lee from Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park.

The rally attracted counter-protestors, which led to violent clashes that included punches, hurled rocks, clubs, and pepper spray.

As counter-protesters marched a few blocks from the statue, a Dodge Challenger, allegedly driven by James Alex Fields Jr., 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, 40.

Lili Sandler of Lorain County Rising led the peace vigil to condemn the hatred that was on display and to show support for “our brothers and sisters fighting the good fight.”

She guided a group around Oberlin’s square before raising her candle and reading a statement by city manager Rob Hillard, who was unable to make the event because of car trouble.

“Oberlin stands in solidarity with the city of Charlottesville,” Sandler read. “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.”

Clayton Koppes, the interim president of Oberlin College, said the city has condemned all forms of racism since its founding.

Following a moment of silence for Heyer, college professor A.G. Miller led the crowd in singing, “This Little Light of Mine.”

“The general feeling was a sense of ‘love is stronger than hate,’” said Sandler. “In coming together, people found strength in unity and were able to share that strength with each other. It was a powerful time for the community to show who who are.”

Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.

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A crowd huddles close together to raise candles in solidarity with Charlottesville, Va. crowd huddles close together to raise candles in solidarity with Charlottesville, Va.

Courtesy photo

By Laurie Hamame