Religious leaders hold vigil for Charlottesville tragedy victim who died

Religious leaders hold vigil for Charlottesville tragedy victim who died
August 24
05:00 2017

Heather Heyer died standing up for the rights of others and what she believed was right when she was hit by a car during an anti-hate protest in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 12.  A vigil was held in her honor in Charlottesville to celebrate her life on Wednesday, Aug. 16. 

As a sign of unity and solidarity the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity (MCWSV) in connection with Dellabrook Presbyterian Church held a vigil of their own as well last Wednesday.

Dellabrook senior pastor, the Rev. Dr. Carlton Eversley, led the service Wednesday evening.  Many members from the MCWSV as well as members from the community and city officials were in attendance, such as City Council Member Derwin Montgomery, who is a pastor and a partner in the company that owns The Chronicle.

Montgomery recounted a story of his childhood with his family as they marched in Columbia, S.C. protesting the Confederate flag on top of the state house.  He said after a few years of marching against the flag, he asked his father “Why are we marching and they are not doing anything about it?”  His father’s response was, “Regardless if they don’t act, we must never let them believe we are OK with it” and he thanked Ms. Heyer for her heroism by speaking up and giving voice to injustice in the community.

“It is always important for us at the Ministers Conference to seek and strive for justice,” said the Rev. Dr. Lamonte Williams, president of the MCWSV.  “We also have to call out injustice, so it’s a two-fold paradigm: one, we hold those accountable who are unjust and two, we celebrate those that make the ultimate sacrifice for justice.”

“I agree with Dr. Martin Luther King who said a person who doesn’t find something worth fighting for hasn’t found a reason to live.  So clearly Ms. Heyer has lifted up the ultimate sacrifice for what she believes in so we are holding this service to show her family that there are citizens across this country that stand with you in solidarity.”

Throughout the service, many individuals stood up to speak about the courage of Ms. Heyer.  They wanted everyone in attendance to know even though this was indeed a tragedy, her death should not be in vain but instead galvanize the community to continue the fight against racial injustice and hate.

Also in attendance were three individuals who marched along side Heather Heyer and witnessed the tragic scenes of that day.  Chris Lutz, Tina Trutanich and Joseph Chrobak traveled to Dellabrook to tell their stories of the day and the importance of speaking up against hate even in the face of danger.

Lutz says he did not know Heyer personally, but was in close proximity to her as she was hit by the vehicle.  He says prior to the attack they were marching in an area toward a fascist group who was trying to intimidate individuals inside of a Charlottesville housing community.

“Shortly after we met up with another marching group, the guy rammed his car into our march,” he said.  “It was a very hectic moment and it was several minutes before we got all of our people to safety.  There was a lot of people panicking but there were many people willing to help.

“For me personally I wanted to come because I know some people don’t feel safe coming to these events because of fear from these fascist hate groups,” he continued.  “I feel like I have to go because people like Heather gave her life for what she believed in so we have to honor her and let those that hate know we will come together in light of their separatist ideology.”

The Rev. Alvin Carlisle, president of the local NAACP chapter, says events such as these gives the community the chance to reflect and come together to strategize where the movement needs to go.  He thinks this helps the people pull from one another to overcome the hate. 

“The stain of racism affects us all regardless of color,” Carlisle said.  “It’s not the real America and we believe in the real America that accepts everybody regardless of race, religion and sexual orientation.  I think this does a lot to bring us all together. It’s just unfortunate that someone had to die in order to emphasize that point.”

The Associated Press reports that hundreds of people gathered on the University of Virginia campus for a candlelight vigil against hate and violence days after Charlottesville erupted in chaos during a white nationalist rally.

Marchers on Wednesday, Aug. 16,  peacefully assembled in the same place where hundreds of torch-carrying white nationalists marched Friday, Aug. 11, when several fights broke out. That was followed Saturday by clashes between rally attendees and those protesting them in the city’s streets.

Video feeds show the group moving slowly through campus Wednesday night before singing several spirituals and observing a moment of silence for the three lives lost during Saturday’s violence.

A memorial had been held earlier in the day for 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was mowed down by a car as she protested the rally. Two Virginia state troopers also died in the crash of their helicopter, which was monitoring the rally.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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