New Schooler, S.B. was infuriated to learn that a fellow protestor, DeAndre Harris, was being hunted by police for “instigating” the physical attacks he incurred during a Charlottesville “Unite the Right” protest on Aug. 12.
“It’s really unrealistic to expect police or politicians to properly address white supremacy. I think Charlottesville proved on many occasions that ‘we’ keep us safe, not politicians or police,” S.B. said.
Six men beat Harris, 20, with a metal pipe and wooden boards. Two of them were charged with “malicious wounding.” Now Harris, who right-wing critics say “instigated” the event, is being accused of the same felony offense.
S.B. was there when a white supremacist drove his car into a throng of people protesting a gathering of racists and hate groups. Out of the 19 people injured, S.B. was one of them.
“I was in the middle of the street when I heard the bang of the car backing up,” said S.B., a second year BA/BFA student at Parsons and Lang.
“I thought it was a gun and someone had shot into the crowd. I looked up and saw the car barreling forward. After that, I don’t have a good memory. It was a lot of crying and screaming and not understanding what had happened,” S.B. said.
S.B., who preferred to use a pseudonym because they feared reprisals from groups they protested against, fractured their left ankle in the crash.
“At first I didn’t know what happened, just that I couldn’t walk. My partner carried me to the sidewalk away from the crash. Pretty quickly a medic came to look at me,” they said. “Then the adrenaline rush came in and all I wanted to do was get back up.”
The car’s driver, James Alex Fields Jr., fatally struck 32-year-old Heather Heyer. He is now the subject of a federal civil rights investigation and has been charged with murder among other charges, according to the Washington Post.
Though injured, S.B. left Charlottesville emboldened in their fight against hate.
S.B. became an activist in high school in Boston. After taking classes in post-colonial theory and philosophy, they worked at an anarchist bookstore where their co-workers pushed them to fundraise and participate in their first local protest.
In New York City, S.B. continued protesting racism, police brutality and colonization along with queer and trans bashings. Although they had seen opposition before, Charlottesville was unexpected.
“It wasn’t like anything I’ve ever seen in New York City. I saw Vanguard America and neo-Nazis walking down the streets with their flags,” they said. “It was surreal and scary and crazy. I have never seen those numbers before.”
The overall number of United States hate groups “jumped from 784 in 2014 to 917 in 2016” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization. But it’s not just the rising numbers that worries S.B.
“To think that the driver of the car, James Alex Field, is two weeks younger than me is horrifying. It’s very telling how white supremacist groups target really young impressionable people,” said S.B., who is 20.
President Donald Trump was criticized for placing blame on “both sides.”
S.B. was neither soothed by his statements nor surprised by them.
“For a couple of years now, the people that are confronting fascism and white supremacy have already been demonized by the state. That’s not really something new.”
“All it does is justify and defend racism and white supremacy,” they added.
Illustration by Ashlie Juarbe