During a prayer vigil in Ashburn this evening, Attorney General Mark Herring denounced the violence that erupted in Charlottesville over the weekend.
“The ideology of hatred and bigotry has no home anywhere in Virginia,” said Herring, a Loudoun native. “The people of Charlottesville are not going to let their community be defined by that violence, and we’re not going to let Virginia be defined that way.”
The “Unite the Right” rally was planned for noon Saturday, 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.
Tonight’s prayer vigil was held at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Ashburn and led by Pastor Michelle C. Thomas, of Whole & Holy Ministries. Another vigil was held in Leesburg on Sunday.
“This is not my prayer, this is our prayer. This is not my fight, this is our fight,” Thomas said. “Four-hundred years of slavery, 200 years of Jim Crow, and many years of fighting for civil rights. And now we’re still fighting.”
Taking questions after the prayer, Herring said he considers the action of James Alex Fields Jr., the Ohio man accused of ramming his car into a group of marchers, a hate crime, something he wants state and national leaders to do more to prosecute.
Hate crimes have been on the rise in recent years, in Virginia and nationwide. Herring said, fearing that under the President Trump’s administration, the U.S. Department of Justice would not fight for victims of hate crime, he asked the Virginia General Assembly for more flexibility to prosecute people who have committed hate crimes. Legislators voted down the idea, so he instead launched a new website, NoHateVA.com. The site lists statistics about hate-inspired crimes and includes information about what constitutes a hate crime and what recourses victims have.
“It is incumbent upon all of us to stand up when we see hate and call it out,” Herring said. “No Virginian should be singled out for abuse, harassment, or mistreatment because of who they are, what they look like, how they worship, where they come from, or whom they love.”