Charlottesville vigil planned for Festival Park

Published 5:53 pm Tuesday, August 15, 2017

In the wake of racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, a local organization will host a candlelight vigil Wednesday night in Washington.

The vigil is planned for 8:30 p.m. in Festival Park, and is an effort to open up dialogue about the violence in Charlottesville, according to a press release from Beaufort County Indivisible, organizers of the vigil.

Heather Heyer, 32, of Charlottesville, was killed and 19 more people were hospitalized Saturday when a car mowed down counter-protesters after a “Unite the Right” rally was canceled and police dispersed the crowd. James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Maumee, Ohio, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count of hit-and-run. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday the attack meets the legal definition of domestic terrorism.

Several other clashes between white supremacist groups and counter-protesters resulted in a total of more than 30 people injured over the weekend. Two Virginia State Police officers, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot M.M. Bates, were also killed when the helicopter they were flying crashed on the way to assist with law enforcement efforts surrounding the rally, according to a press release from the City of Charlottesville.

For Jessica Staton, one of the organizers of Wednesday’s event, the Festival Park vigil is about promoting conversation and a safe community.

“We have to condemn it. We can’t say these things in innuendo. This was wrong. This was hateful. This is not a matter of which party you voted for. We have to see that these kinds of attacks will keep happening if we do not speak out against them,” Staton said in the release.

Washington Police and Fire Services Chief Stacy Drakeford said there will be police presence at the vigil.

“It will be very unnoticeable. For any event we have downtown, we always have a police presence,” Drakeford said. “I don’t anticipate any problems, but we will have an appropriate number of staff on hand if a situation does occur.”

Drakeford said he’d like to see an organized, peaceful event.