UVA holds panel to discuss the lasting legacies of August 2017

“The Legacies of Charlottesville: A Fifth-Anniversary Conversation About Law and Democracy in...
“The Legacies of Charlottesville: A Fifth-Anniversary Conversation About Law and Democracy in America.”
Published: Aug. 11, 2022 at 11:55 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Some experts at UVA are working together to help make sense of what happened in 2017, and about what we can do now to make sure it never happens again.

Five years ago, UVA’s lawn was flooded with white supremacists carrying lit torches; an alarming event that UVA staff now say that was neither the beginning or the end of this tragedy.

On Thursday, August 11, the University of Virginia held a discussion to clear up the past, and future legacies of August 2017.

“How were we surprised? How was it possible that with everything we knew?” Slate Senior Editor Dahlia Lithwick said.

Lithwick lived in Charlottesville in 2017, and she says at that time, she had been there for 18 years.

“August 11th and 12th were formative in ways that I’m quite frankly still grappling with,” Lithwick said.

Lithwick says August 11th was not the first time she saw proud boys with torches or KKK hoods invading her city.

“By the time August 12 happened, it was becoming almost a familiar thing that those folks were coming to town, largely outsiders,” Lithwick said.

While not a surprise, UVA professors say the reality of that day was not what they expected.

“We were not legally equipped to deal with with an armed protest, and our police were not prepared for that,” Director of the UVA School of Law’s Karsh Center Micah Schwartzman said. “It was so hard for people to wrap their minds around what they we’re seeing, we couldn’t even find the right words to describe what was what was happening. I think that at the very least, now, we’re able to do that.”

Professors say there’s room for the law to play a role in what happened in the past in Charlottesville and how we remember it in the future.

“It’s about how people have approached the system, and what they’re willing to do to build a capacity for communities to work with lawyers, and for lawyers to work with the funders that actually hold sway over this kind of action,” UVA’s Director of the Jewish Studies Program James Loeffler said.

The panel says that we must continue looking at the history to understand the relevance of what happened, and to change what we need to do moving forward.

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