Dozens of people gathered at the historic courthouse steps in Leesburg on Sunday for a vigil turned rally in the wake of the protests, demonstrations, violence, and death ahead of a planned “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville on Saturday.
At the vigil, Loudoun County Democratic Committee Vice Chairman Randy Ihara, who organized the rally, told stories of being harassed and threatened by the KKK as a labor organizer in the ’60s, and said “we can’t allow this sort of thing to happen again.”
“I’ve seen this happen, and I’ve been on the wrong end of those guns, and we’ve got to stop that from happening,” Ihara told the vigil crowd. “Martin Luther King said the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice, and the reason he said that was because of people like you.”
The “Unite the Right” rally was planned for noon, but by 11:30 a.m., violent clashes between swastika- and Confederate flag-bearing protestors and counter-protestors prompted Charlottesville and Albemarle County officials to declare a state of emergency, later declaring the rally an illegal assembly.
One woman was killed and 19 other people injured when a car from Ohio plowed into a crowd of counter-protestors. Police have charged a 20-year-old man from Ohio with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count of hit-and-run.
Loudoun NAACP President Phillip Thompson said the violence in Charlottesville was “sad, but it had to happen.”
“Every once in a while in America, we gotta see this, just like people had tos ee the hoses get turned on the black of people of Alabama,” Thompson said. “We had to see it before we finally opened up our eyes and said, whoa, this is what we’re up against.”
Thompson also turned the occasion into a political rallying cry.
“If you don’t get out and work, if you don’t get out and support, this is what you’re going to get,” Thompson said. “This is what you’re going to see. You’re going to see hate in the White House, you’re going to see hate out here.”