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Wichita Falls residents fearful after Charlottesville events

Residents react to the Charlottesville white nationalist rally

The act of James Fields plowing through a crowd with a car at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday, Aug. 12 resulted in the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

LOCAL REACTION

WICHITA FALLS - After hearing the news, former Wichita Falls City Councilor Arthur B. Williams was fearful.

"I was mortified, it's absolutely a reprehensible act and it shouldn't be happening in 2017," Williams said. "There's no excuse for it."

Williams added the action felt close to the actions during the Civil Rights movement.

"I am afraid," Williams said. "Even during the height of the Civil Rights era I wasn't this afraid because we were moving forward. We're moving backwards."

Rosie Flanigan, a former Wichita County educator agrees with Williams.

"The thing that happened in Charlottesville is not uncommon," Flanigan said. "We look back to the 60's, [and] we see the bombings. We see the deaths, The unresolved deaths. Nobody punished, just another one dead. Have we come far? How far have we come? Where are we now?"

Williams is using the violence to speak out.

I think what's bothering me more is the deafening silence of people who ought to be speaking out against this stuff," Williams said. "My belief is silence gives consent and if you're not speaking out about it you might as well be a part of it."

STATISTICS OF HATE GROUPS

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center website, 917 hate groups are currently operating in the United States, 55 in Texas and one neo-Nazi group in Wichita Falls.

"I was shocked to find out there was a hate group here, especially because they're neo-Nazi's," Midwestern State University Student Cortney Wood said.

Flanigan was not surprised, but she had a message for the groups.

"I would say this to them, learn to love not hate, it's so much easier to smile than to frown," Flanigan said. "I think it's easier to love and not hate. The rewards are so much greater."

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center website the organization has "documented an explosive rise in the number of hate groups since the turn of the century, driven in part by anger over Latino immigration and demographic projections showing that whites will no longer hold majority status in the country by around 2040."

THE ATTACK

CNN - Counter-protesters met white nationalists and other right-wing groups at the site of the "Unite the Right" event hours before the rally was set to start.

Here's what happened:

  1. Clashes broke out, and police began to disperse crowds.
  2. Local officials declared the rally an "unlawful assembly," and the governor declared a state of emergency.
  3. About two hours later, a gray Dodge Challenger rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters walking down a street in downtown Charlottesville.
  4. Fields slammed the car in reverse and fled the scene backward, and was arrested later that afternoon.

The nationalists were holding the rally to protest the city's decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

NATIONAL AND REGIONAL REACTIONS

After the attack President Trump tweeted, "We all must stand and condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Let's come together as one."

President Trump also spoke to the democratic Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe after the incident.

"I told the President that there has got to be a movement in this country to bring people together," McAuliffe said. "The hatred and rhetoric that has gone on and intensified over the last couple of months is dividing this great nation."

The Mayor of Charlottesville, Va. Michael Signer said during a press conference "this day will not define us."

"This tide of hatred, of intolerance and bigotry that has come to us and that has marched down with torches the lawn of one of the founders of democracy," Signer said. "It is brought here by outsiders and it's brought here by people who belong in the trash heap of history with these ideas. They're going to be in the trash heap of history. This day will not define us."


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