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Aug 12, 22

“A Unique Form of Hell”: How Community Stepped into Action in the Wake of Unite the Right in Charlottesville

Five years after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, a survivor of the car attack looks back on the importance of community support and solidarity.

On August 12, 2017 a Nazi mowed us down and murdered Heather Heyer. The past five years have been a unique form of hell.

What stands out for me is the power of our community. Moments after James Fields ran us over our community stepped into action. Medics were there to stop me from bleeding out and to prevent the broken pieces of my spine from paralyzing me. Activists protected us from the prying eyes of the press and shielded us from the sun. Comrades around the world rallied to gather donations and organize protests.

Survivors have witnessed unspeakable hate and endured acute mental and physical pain. We have also been surrounded by the most loving, caring, selfless community I can imagine. I am incredibly grateful to every single person who helped me navigate this hell. Thank you for every hospital visit, every kind word, every flower and meal and donation. Thank you to everyone who continued to fight and gave me the support and grace to heal. You have my utmost gratitude and respect.

My community filled these past five years with beautiful, tender memories of love. The comrade who lovingly painted my back brace. The friend who walked miles every day to visit me. Loved ones who spent hours with me in the hospital, talking and painting my toenails. The friend who fed me when I was too weak to pick up a fork. The community members who brought me green juice when my iron levels were low from blood loss. The loved ones who held my hand when I was in excruciating pain. The amazing friend who took me into her home, gave me pain meds around the clock, and lovingly tended my broken body. Every kind hand that pushed my wheelchair or handed me my cane. My community literally carried me when I could not walk.

The State not only failed car attack survivors but actively harassed us. Days after the car attack the FBI showed up on our hospital rooms. They promised to pay for our medical bills but instead, 3 months later, delivered grand jury subpoenas.

I did not want to participate in James Fields’ state trial. I had zero desire to relive that hell. I was subpoenaed anyway. The state forced me into a court room in which the witness stand wasn’t wheelchair accessible. It was my community who provided me with meals, shielded me from the press, and laid loving hands on me when the pain was too much to bear.

At James Fields’ first appearance for the state trial the government promised to escort survivors in through the back door of the court, away from the press. They neglected to consider that survivors using mobility devices wouldn’t be able to navigate the stairs. So survivors were paraded into the court room through the front door in front of the press.

The State monitored us in the court room, turning their backs to the fascist murderer on trial in order to police survivors. It was our community who shielded us from the press and kept us. I was able to focus on the hell of the trial knowing that loving eyes and ears were keeping watch outside the courtroom. The State provided nothing but cheap sawhorses to protect us. Their buildings had steps when we were in wheelchairs. You were our ramps.

After James Fields ran us over, our community rallied locally and around the world. A Nazi broke our bodies, but because of our communities, he could not break our spirit. Let us come together in this spirit.

At the Unite the Right rally we came together against the fascists. We need to remain unified in order to solidify our strength. Don’t let our differences divide us. Together we are strong. Together we can follow in Heather’s courageous path. Our love and our fire will continue to light the way.

Thank you to everyone who showed up to protest the Unite the Right Rally. Thank you to the activists who bravely held their ground. Thank you to everyone who pitched in both on and off site. Every bottle of water, every bite of food was a thread in the fabric of support.

photo: Anthony Crider (CC BY 2.0)

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