Clergy convene in Charlottesville, protesting Alt-Right rally


On Friday night, ahead of tonight’s planned rally, members of the alt-right and white supremacist groups marched through the streets of Charlottesville, VA carrying torches and chanting slogans steeped in the history of bigotry. “Blood and soil,” a Nazi ideology of so-called purity based on ethnicity and national origin, “Jews shall not replace us,” and “white lives matter” were among their rallying cries. They are protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

Some counter-protesters clashed with the white supremacists near a statue of Thomas Jefferson, but many remained in a peaceful prayer vigil at St. Paul’s Memorial Episcopal Church. Clergy from many different faiths and from across the nation were present, answering a call from the bishops of the Diocese of Virginia. For some time, the white supremacists surrounded the church, but they were eventually disbanded by police for unlawful assembly. Traci Blackmon, a United Church of Christ minister tweeted that the police weren’t letting people inside the church go out for their own safety.

Rev. Winnie Varghese asked those gathered in the church to invoke in prayer “those upon whose shoulders you stand today, those whose footsteps you follow.” “Let’s take that Love to the streets,” she said in the conclusion of her prayer. Dr. Cornel West spoke this morning at First Baptist Church, saying, this would be the “biggest gathering of a hate-driven right wing in the history of this country in the last 30 to 35 years.” He cited Virginia as having “a long history of racism and fighting racism.”

Video from Sojourners of silent marchers in Charlottesville

The Diocese of Virginia added that all clergy are currently safe, and said they would continue to bring updates to their Facebook page.

Charlottesville is a majority progressive city, and the mayor, Mike Signer, said in a Facebook post that he was “beyond disgusted” with this display “cowardly parade of hatred, bigotry, racism, and intolerance” on the part of the alt-right protesters. Many felt that the torches were reminiscent of Ku Klux Klan, and Rev. Seth Wispelwey of the local United Church of Christ said “White supremacists rallying in our town is an act of violence.”

In her Final Charge during last night’s prayer service, Lisa Sharon Harper said,

“Oh, God, cut darkness tomorrow, Lord!
Hover over us tomorrow, Lord!
Be with us like you were with the priests who exited the exile!
Blow your holy spirit over us, holy God!
And remind us of your faithfulness to our ancestors!
Walk with us Lord and!


Saturday afternoon the bishops and clergy gathered at Trinity Episcopal:

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23 Responses to "Clergy convene in Charlottesville, protesting Alt-Right rally"
  1. Reports at 5:00 EDT Saturday say 19 injured and one dead. "All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing." Thanks be to God for the witness of our Church in the midst of this horror.

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  2. Today is a day where I can reflect with pride at the stand and the actions our clergy took. It's difficult to put in to words how I feel about their actions other than to offer a sense of gratitude and admiration.

    Today was a dark day for all of us, and it was made darker by the statement offered by our President. While our clergy were in harms way, our President was telling us that both sides must tone this down and that we are all Americans. An American city was awash in Swatikas, Nazi flags, and armed men wearing T Shirts with racist sayings and Hitler quotes, and our President tells us this is a "side".

    As you might expect, nowhere was the speech greeted with more appreciation than among the ranks of the Nazis themselves. The "Daily Stormer", which played a significant role in both the planning and execution of this event ran a live feed. At 3:46 PM in the live feed, they make this observation:


    "Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us.

    He said that we need to study why people are so angry, and implied that there was hate… on both sides!

    So he implied the antifa are haters.

    There was virtually no counter-signaling of us at all.

    He said he loves us all.

    Also refused to answer a question about White Nationalists supporting him.

    No condemnation at all.

    When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room.

    Really, really good.

    God bless him."

    The page is so vile that I can't post a link. If you are inclined, just Google "Daily Stormer".

    We have no presidential leadership in the face of this evil. Thank God for our clergy.

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  3. I'm proud to be an Episcopalian. Churches everywhere need to do exactly what the chuches in Charlottesville have done, Thank you.

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  4. Trump was right. "What do you want? Pigs in a blanket! When do you want them? now!" Is equally an hateful chant as a bunch of torch carrying white supremacists. Particularly when it is followed by the assanation of police officers. Trump gave proper balance to addressing the problem of a hate filled America - something totally absent in the TEC clergy.

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  5. I believe the chant was

    "Pigs in a blanket, fry 'em like bacon."

    Refereeing versions of hatred isn't the Gospel. Both are wrong.

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  6. Sibling Ed, Sibling Christopher: so, both are reprehensible. I recall very few voices that wanted to defend the black-clad, masked anarchists who came out specifically to disrupt peaceful actions in Seattle. I recall many, many trying to make loudly the appropriate distinction in Ferguson that violent provocation and looting do not represent the people peacefully protesting a demonstrably unjust local government.

    So, both are reprehensible; but only one was on display in Charlottesville. So, I would expect the President could be specific to the occasion. It isn't a matter of "either/or;" nor is justice well represented by, "Well, the other kid was ugly, too." For this time, address this reprehensible theme and action. Sadly, human nature being what it is, something else reprehensible will be said, and all too soon.

    Now, on a personal note, I grew up in a time and culture where the ultimate statement of power was to be "free, white, male, and 21." How much more reprehensible indeed that it still included the word free, long after legal equality had supposedly been established. As a white man of a certain age, am I aware of loss of privilege? Absolutely; but, for the life of me, I can't look at Jesus and see my "loss" as anywhere close to, or somehow unjust in light of, centuries of rights and humanity (and not just privileges) denied.

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  7. Fr Scott, your coming to a point of recognition is crucial. Thank you for sharing. Others will come to Jesus as sinners in need in their own ways as well. Scripting this for others preempts the work of the Holy Spirit. He is Lord. Let Him blow where He wills, all sovereign over sin and death.

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  8. Both sides equally bad? Unbelievable. When you look at the evidence of inequality it's clear that both sides are not equally bad. Two examples, 1. the number of murders by white supremacists far exceeds that of any other demographic, they have been named a leading threat to national security for several years now. 2. the statistics on unarmed black men being killed by police far more often than whites is alarming, especially in light of the fact they seem to be able to do it with impunity. No one supports cop killers, as Ed Lowrie suggests, certainly not TEC. The white supremacists came armed to the teeth and prepared for a riot, attacking counter-protestors, especially targeting people of color.

    Thank God that TEC clergy were there to witness to the truth. Winnie Varghese reports that there were many incidents of hate that the cameras didn't catch.

    The white supremacists came with a message of hate against African Americans, Jewish people, LGBTQI people, and pretty much everyone who isn't white and like minded. This speech would be illegal in the UK and some of Europe as hate speech, and of course, coming to a political event armed would not be tolerated. And somehow that is the same as unarmed and peaceful protestors standing up to abuse of power by armed police, who the FBI claims has been infiltrated by white supremacists.

    Sure, that's equal and equally sinful. Not. Wow.

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  9. "Refereeing versions of hatred isn't the Gospel. Both are wrong." Was my statement.

    And one is more wrong. That is clearly true in this case.

    But swinging clubs and wearing battle helmets makes both sides look the same. It is a very sad "witness" and indefensible. Violence begets violence.

    "Refereeing versions of hatred isn't the Gospel."

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  10. "Refereeing versions of hatred isn't the Gospel". Wow. Just wow.

    I was on the ground in Charlottesville. I marched with fellow clergy and faith leaders. We gathered in prayer, in song, and in praise....and in peace. I was at Charlottesville 1st UMC, which opened its doors as a place of prayer and refuge to all. I witnessed a white supremacist and a anti-fascist protester being treated for exposure to chemical irritants by medical personal, in the same tent, with clergy assisting. I spoke to witnesses who were present at the horrible moment when a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of protesters. I offered what comfort I could to souls in pain and burning with anger. Those of us who stood and sang and prayed heard vicious taunts, slurs, and words that were flung at us, and still we stood and sang and prayed. There was too much violence on August 12. Too much. And still we stood and we sang and we prayed.

    Clergy and faith leaders did NOT wear helmets or swing clubs. Please do not conflate us with those who did.

    We didn't referee versions of hatred. We stood for the Gospel. I welcome you to join us.

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  11. "Clergy and faith leaders did NOT wear helmets or swing clubs. Please do not conflate us with those who did."

    Never said you did!

    I was referring to the professional demonstrators on the left who took up clubs. One sees this on every TV set across the country.

    If people followed the non-violence necessary to Christian witness, the neo nazis and others would be left to their free speech rights, but without any foil to fight against so exaggerate their size. This was the genius of MLK.

    As it stands, we have violence begetting violence. The fringe neo-nazis, representing something vastly less than the percentage of all known vegans, ought to be treated as the fringe group that they are. Siding off against them is nonsensical, with the same clubs and helmets that confront them.

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  12. Christopher, do you have any real evidence that the anti racism crowd took up clubs? My TV (actually computer, I don't do TV) showed racists who came prepared to start fights with helmets, shields, clubs, guns, and things to throw, and tiki torches. My computer shows racist thugs attacking students on the Rotunda who were completely barehanded, except for a sign. My computer shows about a dozen club wielding racists attacking an unarmed black man (Darren is his first name). Did some of the anti racism crowd pick up whatever they could to protect themselves, probably. And no, that is not the way of MLK. But one has to note that MLK's strife was with the state. Getting beaten and arrested unjustly by the state is quite different than standing for a beating by these thugs, who would film it and get a kick out of it. Not that I advocate violence, I don't. I'm just proud that the clergy were there, and I'd be happy to join them in prayerful, nonviolent witness, as I did here in Denver - where things were characteristically laid back.

    People I know who were there, like University of Virginia professors, are NOT "professional demonstrators" and either were the students who live and go to school there, and the residents who decided to remove the R.E. Lee statute. You absolutely fabricated the bit about "professional demonstrators." And they did not have the same helmets and clubs!This fabrication calls into question pretty much anything you argue.

    Cynthia Katsarelis

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  13. Cynthia. Yes. In the film being broadcast on TV one has to work hard to see which group is which. They look identical, wearing helmets and goggles, burning each others flags, swinging clubs, yelling through clenched teeth. Dancing about in revenge and "got you." MLK made the kind of impact he did by avoiding these tactics, even as he was attacked for being too soft by other black activists. Fast forward and a similar dynamic is at work today.

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  14. Christopher, there is a lot more video out now. With the exception of one small group (the Roughneck something or other), counter protestors did not come armed. Once the melee started, by the KKK/Nazi's, I suppose that some of counter protestors picked up whatever was handy.

    There is a big difference between MLK battling the state vs. these counter protestors who are fighting an evil ideology. I still don't condone the violence, but these differences are real.

    Finally, both sides are not the same. One "side" has an ideology that supports genocide, racism, antisemitism, homophobia, misogyny, The other side wants equality, human rights for all, that sort of thing. Those two things are not equal. My father was over 50 when I was born, he fought in WWII along with 7 of my uncles. It is shocking to be fighting domestic Nazi's in 2017. Do I wish for better tactics? Yes! But I am having some empathy for the shock and especially for African Americans who have to see and fight this all over again - although none of them seem surprised.

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  15. I believe in point of fact there is serious disagreement about who started what.

    As for "figthing an evil ideology" the question is how one does that. I for one do not believe in suspending the civil rights of people so as to have a uniform "correct" view on anything.

    When we begin pulling down statues of Jefferson, Madison, Grant, Teddy Roosevelt and others because their views are not what X group today holds dear, we are headed down a terrible path. Jumping up and down on a statue pulled down in Durham yesterday made me slightly ill. It looked like something out of the Middle Ages in visceral taboo.

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  16. Generally speaking, there is only serious disagreement about who started what among those that are apologists and defenders of the alt-right. Or those that don't know any better.

    The below video (pinned to the top of the twitter page) illustrates the first confrontation. It clearly shows alt-right and Nazi supporters advancing on counter protesters and then attacking them. Many are women. There is no serious debate about this. This video has been wide spread in the MSM.

    "When we begin pulling down statues of Jefferson, Madison, Grant, Teddy Roosevelt"

    Please provide a source or link where such statues are being pulled down.

    This protest was organized and planned primarily by Nathan Damigo and Richard Spencer.

    Damigo was incarcerated for armed robbery for a period of four years, and while in prison embraced white supremacy. He operates the website "IDENTITY EVROPA" and is the registered owner of that site and domain.

    Identity Evropa, among many other things, is known for reaching out and recruiting on college campuses. Probably by coincidence, the Cafe just published a post that shows one such college student. The student depicted on the right is wearing a polo shirt with the Identity Evropa logo. He was part of the torch march that included our clergy hunkered down in a church while he shouted blood and soil.

    We know as fact that this demonstration was organized and planned by Damigo and Spencer. There are two points here which are important.

    We now have this peculiar narrative where many seem to be discussing the notion that the Alt-Right, white supremacists, and Nazi protesters contain some good people. I'd like someone to explain that one to me. How can anyone, anywhere make the assertion that an individual who participates in a Nazi or white supremacist rally be identified as having "good" as their intentions?

    And just for a moment, let's discuss this statue issue. This was an excuse for the Nazis to turn out- it wasn't a reason. And you have to wonder about that. Even Trump stated that communities should decide if they wish these statues to remain. And we know that the community of Charlottesville and it's citizens numbers support this.

    It's not that you would expect Nazis to respect a majority opinion, but it does speak to intent. And the intent wasn't to protest the removal of a statue. That was merely an excuse. They eagerly wanted this confrontation. So eagerly that people like Damigo and the college student depicted in the Cafe file photo were willing to travel thousands of miles and to a community not their own to exploit it.

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    • "Even Trump state that communities should decide if they wish these statues to remain."

      In Virginia, the reason statues have not come down (contrast with Maryland last night!) is because of state law prohibiting their removal. Sad.
      There's debate about whether the Virginia law, passed in 1998, applies to monuments erected before that date.

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  17. Prof Seitz, I'm not an advocate of erasing history, but the Confederacy is a particular nation that was not the USA, was traitorous to the USA, and fought it. And lost. No US federal, state, or local government branch, including state universities, should be displaying its statues or flag, because they are the artifacts of another, and an opponent, nation. When non-government and private entities, like churches or private colleges, decide to rename buildings or parks, and to remove portraits or statues, as independent organizations they have the right to make those decisions. Now - whether it's erasing history, or simply placing its artifacts where they belong, which is in private organizations' buildings, or in museums, is the question. Inhumane history needs to be told. It needs that done with information and displays that tell the full story, not that simply glorify a flag, a character, or a "heritage."

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  18. Exactly, Gwen. We shouldn't have Confederates on a pedestal anymore than we should have statues of Hitler, Goebbels, Romel, et al. Many of those Confederate statues were added in the 1960's for obvious reasons. In case it isn't obvious, it was to oppose the Civil Rights Movement. Even Robert E. Lee thought that all the symbols of that war should be put away.

    The Civil War was a blood bath to protect the institution of slavery and the "sacred" white supremacy. The founders said as much. All the mythology about that needs to be debunked as quickly and strongly as possible. Putting the statues in museums and whatnot, for context, is adding to history, not erasing it. I don't condone vandalizing that statue in Durham, but there are plenty more to tell that awful story.

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