HARRISONBURG — A Harrisonburg High School graduate was injured when a car slammed into a group of protesters Saturday during a day of violence in Charlottesville.
Aubtin Heydari, a 2014 HHS grad, was injured when a car was driven into people protesting a white supremacist rally, killing one and injuring at least 19 others, City Schools Superintendent Scott Kizner and a friend confirmed Sunday.
The rally led to a day of violence.
Several white supremacist groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, rallied in protest of the city’s decision to remove a Robert E. Lee statue from a Charlottesville park and were met by hundreds of counterprotesters. Dozens were injured earlier in clashes between the two groups. Two Virginia State Police officers were killed later when their helicopter crashed in Albemarle County while monitoring the rally.
After a day of violence and fear, the Valley addressed the unrest that hit close to home. At least 500 people flooded Court Square in Harrisonburg on Sunday supporting Charlottesville and calling for action to end white supremacy.
“It is time for white people to call out white people,” said Monica Robinson, president of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham NAACP. “It is not OK when your old crazy uncle Larry says something inappropriate about someone else based on their gender or their skin color. That’s an opportunity for you to set your white privilege down and stand up and say, ‘That’s not cool uncle Larry. I don’t want to be a part of that.’”
Nahla Aboutabl said at the vigil that she was in Charlottesville on Saturday and Heydari was among the injured and will undergo surgery today. She said white supremacists yelled slurs and insults at her based on her skin color and gender.
“This movement is based on hate not heritage,” she said of the white supremacists. “They do not respect their own. They do not respect us.”
Police arrested a 20-year-old Ohio man and charged him with second-degree murder and other crimes for the attack.
Legislators across the state, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe and U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, condemned the violence.
Valley lawmakers also addressed the attack and the white supremacist groups behind the rally.
“I condemn in the strongest of terms the senseless acts of violence and property damage that took place,” Del. Tony Wilt, R-Broadway, said in a statement. “While it is a First Amendment right for all present to protest and espouse their positions, hate-filled rhetoric is not acceptable to Virginians, and violence and mayhem cannot be tolerated.”
Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave, took a strong stance on the rally’s organizers.
“The divisive rhetoric espoused by groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the National Socialist Movement is reprehensible,” Landes said in a statement. “They are expressly racist and seek to divide Americans based on nothing more than the color of their skin. While they have the right to express themselves, I emphatically reject the bigotry they endorse and the violence that has occurred. The United States is — and should be — a land of equal opportunity for all.”
Brent Finnegan, the Democrat challenging Wilt in the November election, said the attack illustrates continuing racial divides in the state.
“Simply denouncing Nazis is not enough. After the white supremacists disperse from Charlottesville and return to their hometowns, Virginians must turn our focus to addressing the painful systemic racism prevalent throughout our Commonwealth,” Finnegan said in a statement. “I believe there is a way to recognize Virginia’s role in the founding of our country that honors its contributions to our democratic system, while also acknowledging the reality of its role in slavery, segregation, and unjust laws.”
Angela Lynn, Landes’ Democratic challenger, wrote on Facebook that she was in Charlottesville Saturday and the violence was perpetuated by outside groups.
“Domestic terrorism is a problem that has been growing,” she said. “I know most of the constituents of my district do not share these outsiders values. ... Freedom was not present yesterday. Oppression and bullying with violence made a statement. Everyone was under siege in a free country. That is not why we fought to be free.”
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, also condemned white supremacist groups.
“The racist and anti-Semitic views embraced by white supremacists have no place in our nation and do not reflect core American values of equality and religious freedom,” he said in a statement. “We are all created in the image of God, and I strongly condemn such detestable views against fellow human beings.”
Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, issued a joint statement with House Speaker William Howell and other House Republican leaders, saying it “appears to be a violent act of terrorism.” Del Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, posted messages on social media decrying the attack.
Kellen Squire, Bell’s challenger, was working in the emergency room at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville on Saturday and, in an emotional video uploaded to Twitter, said it was a “tough day,” but “We’re going to come together as a community to heal as a community.”
Harrisonburg Mayor Deanna Reed posted a photo with Charlottesville Councilman Wes Bellamy on Twitter Sunday afternoon and wrote “The City of Harrisonburg stands with the administration of #Charlottesville in working to dismantle racism and prejudice.”
Bellamy resigned from his post on the Virginia Board of Education in late 2016 over crude, racist, anti-white tweets made from 2009 to 2014. Reed did not return a call for comment on Sunday.
Contact Nolan Stout at 574-6278 or firstname.lastname@example.org