Community holds vigil for Charlottesville

by Zachary Benjamin | 8/18/17 2:35am


Demonstrators gathered across the street from the Hanover Inn.

by Zachary Benjamin / The Dartmouth

On Monday evening, members of the Upper Valley community gathered on the Green to hold a vigil in commemoration of those affected last Saturday during the “Unite the Right” demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, when a member of the alt-right allegedly drove his car into a crowd of left-wing counter-protesters, injuring several and killing one woman, Heather Heyer.

Around 50 demonstrators, including Dartmouth students and Upper Valley residents, met across the street from the Hanover Inn holding American flags and protest signs. Several demonstrators gathered to sing hymns and other songs of solidarity, while others made posters condemning racism, the Trump administration and the alt-right. Near the end of the event, demonstrators lit candles to commemorate those killed and injured during the violence last Saturday.

The event was put together by a large number of groups in the community, said Sean Garnsey, a member of the Hanover Democrats who helped to organize the event. In addition to the Hanover Democrats, Garnsey said that community members also promoted the event by emailing the listserv for the town of Lyme. Upper Valley Resist!, a Facebook group formed to help organize liberal Upper Valley residents in a resistance effort against the Trump administration and the alt-right, also promoted the event, Garnsey said.

Ted Greene, another demonstrator, said that he learned about the event from the website Indivisible, a self-declared guide to resisting the Trump administration and its agenda.

Garnsey said that there was no specific plan for the event, except to show solidarity among the Upper Valley community during the vigil. He also emphasized his belief in the importance of face-to-face interactions for community members.

“More and more these days, so much is being dictated by what’s going out in media, social media, what they’re seeing on the newspaper and on TV news … it can be, I think, very isolating for people,” he said. “And so no we didn’t have any specific objective besides to get people to see each other face-to-face.”

Greene said that while he came to the event mainly to honor the people injured in Charlottesville, the event seemed to be about meeting like-minded individuals, rather than having a somber tone.

“They want to know that there are other people out there,” he said.

During the protest, Greene assisted in making signs, working with Dartmouth students and other members of the community to gather cardboard and markers.

Lisa Talmadge, a demonstrator from Norwich, said that many people likely came to the event because of its location, where many other protests are often held.

Garnsey said that the actions last week in Charlottesville, such as the flying of Nazi flags and regalia, show the depths of the issues with racism in the U.S. today. Because of this, he said, it is essential to spread awareness about the truth of the situation.

“I believe that fascism is borne of ignorance, and the only way to cure ignorance is awareness and getting the information out there,” he said.

Talmadge expressed concern about an upcoming demonstration this Saturday at Boston Commons, featuring many of the same alt-right speakers who had appeared at Charlottesville. She said that racism, neo-Nazism and other forms of bigotry are not limited to the South.

“They’re everywhere,” she said. “We have KKK here in Vermont. We have people that disrupt our protest and yell Nazi stuff to me on the corner, right here at Dartmouth. And they’re coming to Boston too.”

Talmadge and Garnsey said they plan to travel to Boston this Saturday to counter-protest the alt-right.

While he has not seen any blatant displays of xenophobia in the Upper Valley, especially because he has only been in the area for a limited time, Greene said that the predominantly white demographic makeup of the area can make many racial issues seem abstract. He expressed concern that well-meaning, educated Democrats might still end up ignoring the input and needs of minorities in practice.

Based off of RSVPs to his Facebook event, Garnsey said he had only initially expected around 20 people to arrive, and so he was pleasantly surprised by the level of turnout.