BY: David Chang
A crowd, estimated to be over 2,000 people, marched through Center City, Philadelphia in response to last weekend’s deadly violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia as well as President Donald Trump’s comments placing blame on both the white nationalists and the groups that protested them.
The ‘Philly is Charlottesville’ rally, hosted by the interfaith organization POWER, began at 7 p.m. Wednesday as a group gathered outside the Congregation Rodeph Shalom Synagogue on 615 N Broad Street. The group then marched down Broad Street at 7:15 p.m. before arriving at the Arch Street United Methodist Church on 55 N. Broad Street.
During the event, protesters expressed their views on the Charlottesville violence and President Trump’s subsequent reaction to it.
“This white supremacy, neo-Nazism, the racism, come on America,” said Jacqueline Wiggins of North Philadelphia. “We can do better.”
Faith leaders who attended the march also spoke on criminal justice reform and public education funding.
“We have to do better as a city dismantling the institutions of white supremacy and how it affects black and brown people here in the city of Philadelphia,” said Reverend Gregory Holston, the executive director of POWER.
Among those who attended the rally was Steve Gold, who has Parkinson’s Disease and walks with crutches but wouldn’t let his disability stop him from marching.
“Racism is totally abhorrent to the United States,” Gold said. “And we will fight it. And fight it. And fight it.”
Saturday’s rally in Charlottesville, which included neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members, is believed to be the largest gathering of white supremacists in a decade. The rally was in response to the decision to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Chaos and violence erupted during the event as white supremacists and counter-protesters clashed in the streets.
After authorities forced the crowd to disperse, a driver, identified by police as 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr., drove his Dodge Challenger into a group of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring several others. Two Virginia State Police troopers who were aboard a helicopter flying to the rally also died after it crashed outside Charlottesville.
In the days after Saturday’s violence, President Donald Trump drew criticism after stating that both the white supremacists and the counter-protesters were at fault. Signs and chants criticizing the president were prevalent during Wednesday’s march in Center City.