AfP’s Statement on the Events at Charlottesville

August 15, 2017
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A mourner lights a candle in front of a makeshift memorial during a vigil on Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017, held at the site where a car plowed into a crowd of people protesting a white nationalist rally on Saturday in Charlottesville, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Last weekend, the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and Neo-Confederate groups descended on Charlottesville, VA, to protest the city’s decision to remove a monument to General Robert E. Lee of the Confederate Army. The city voted to remove this powerful symbol and rename a park that many believe serves not only as a memorial to the US Civil War, but as an ongoing and painful reminder of racial injustice and cruelty. The removal of these memorials has become a flash point for a White Supremacist movement that uses the opportunity to rally its base, recruit new members, and violently intimidate opponents.

At the Alliance for Peacebuilding, we recognize in the Charlottesville tragedy the same kind of “us versus them” violence that emerges in divided societies around the world. The United States is waking up to the fact that we are not exceptional. Alarmingly, we see the progression of “fringe groups” that are infiltrating mainstream institutions, and are gaining legitimacy by hiding behind anodyne descriptions like “alt-right.” The remedy for the kind of creeping hatred represented by this movement is a full-throated and open protest by ordinary people who refuse to allow their societies to be divided by extremism. What we witnessed in Charlottesville was a counter-protest by everyday peacebuilders, including University of Virginia students, religious leaders, and, most notably, Heather Heyer, who was peacefully protesting when she was killed by an alt-right violent extremist. It is these exceptional leaders whom we honor today, recognizing that it will be everyday peacebuilders who will ultimately defeat hate and intimidation in the United States.

At the Alliance for Peacebuilding, we are supporting these everyday peacebuilders by mapping peacebuilding organizations working in the United States, and helping to design a curriculum to join peacebuilding strategy with the power of nonviolent social movements. We encourage you to join AfP in honoring and supporting the next wave of everyday peacebuilders.