UK students stand in solidarity with Charlottesville at vigil downtown

Rick Childress

“No hate. No fear. Nazi Thugs aren’t welcome here,” chanted the crowd of about 1,500 standing together on Monday evening in front of the Fayette County Circuit Court House.

The event, billed as a Vigil in Solidarity with Charlottesville, was an act of protest against the deadly events which occurred days earlier in Charlottesville, Va., and a display of solidarity behind Lexington Mayor Jim Gray’s decision to try to remove two Confederate-era statues that stand near the former Fayette County Courthouse.

“This is a group of citizens who are committed to peace and justice and there is no better time than now to illustrate those values, those American values,” said Lexington Mayor Jim Gray. “I’ve learned in this role that you have stand up and speak out. You can’t stand back, relax and be silent.”

 “I applaud Mayor Gray. You have to put weight behind your words. It can’t just be empty rhetoric. He’s taking the positive action that this city and this state needs, to take relics that belong in a history museum from out in front of the welcome center,” Kentucky’s Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes said.

The crowd, teeming with signs against bigotry and white supremacy, burst into several frenzied cheers during the speeches of a variety of religious figures, activists and prominent local politicians. The atmosphere was supercharged by an electric zeal for activism and the frightening prospect of a possible alt-right counter-protest.

“I’m frightened to think that they may come here but it is something we need to prepare for and know how to act in manners that are acquated to civil disobedience. Of course, no one wants violence to occur, but it is not OK to let this kind of thing occur in or around our campus,” Madison Shore, a senior public health and animal science major, said.

“I don’t really think it will get violent tonight. I really hope it doesn’t. But I have mentally prepared for that and just in case, told my loved ones, ‘Hey, I love you guys.’ Because it is terrifying to go to any of these events,” Landon Carter, a junior Japanese language and literature major, said.

UK students were out in full force to display their displeasure for the events in Charlottesville.

“I’m here because I am completely outraged by what has happened in Charlottesville. I never could imagine that I would live in an era where there is Nazism and white supremacy out in the streets, proud to show that,” Meghana Kudrimoti a biology and political science senior, said.

Students were also happy to share in Mayor Gray’s vision for the movement of the statues. Most were glad to hear that the historical pieces were not going to be destroyed but only moved to a different location.

“It is history, and I think we shouldn’t erase history. So, I think they shouldn’t be destroyed and moving them is a good idea,” German and economics senior, Olivia Oswald said.

Others had hoped for a more severe disposal of the monuments.

“Absolutely, I think these statues should be removed. I would love to watch them be destroyed. They should have never been erected in the first place. It’s disgusting that they’ve been able to stay for so long,” Shore said.

Many UK students considered the possible conflicts that may occur on campus because of this divisive issue.

“Luckily, I feel like most college students are fairly educated and open-minded. That being said, I’m sure there are still some students that might be on the side of the alt-right. I’m hoping that might create some intellectual discussions and arguments within classes. I think it will definitely cause a stir regardless,” Oswald said.

“What better time to get started in fighting this violence than right now,” Kadrimoti said. “So, if it comes to UK, I’m ready. I’m so ready to take it on. I’m so ready to be there and show them it’s not OK, and Nazism and white supremacy is not welcome in this community.”