More than 100 gather in Austin, hold vigil for Charlottesville

More than 100 people gathered at Wooldridge Square Park near the Travis County Courthouse on Saturday to support those who were killed or injured as they protested against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Nathan Simmons, who spoke at the vigil and said he was of Jewish and Chinese decent, called for those against white supremacy to stand together in the face of hate.

“A divided left is a winning right,” he said. “We have to stop these Nazis. They will kill us, and they have.”

Martha Mercado, member of Democratic Socialists of America and Counter Balance: ATX, became emotional when speaking to the crowd.

“We’re dragged behind buggies, we’re hung. It’s not easy,” she said. “You have to use your privilege, my white allies.”

Mercado began crying while talking to the crowd about the anger she has because “my people have been systemically oppressed.”

“I’m here to honor the loss but also to tell you, I’m tired of coming out here,” Mercado said. “Coming out to these events is not enough. It’s a good start but you’ve got to stay involved and reach out to these marginalized communities. We can’t do this alone. We need you.”

As night fell, those gathered lighted candles to honor those hurt in Charlottesville, Va.

Elias Ponvert and his daughter Katharine Pruett-Ponvert, 9, led the crowd in singing “Amazing Grace.”

Katharine was one of two children to speak at the vigil. “That somebody actually got killed hurts me a lot,” the 9-year-old said. “I don’t like it and we, here together, have to stop it. It’s not going to stop it on its own.”

Earlier: Hours after a car plowed into a crowd of people protesting against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday, more than 70 people in Austin gathered near the Travis County Courthouse to honor those killed and injured in the incident.

The attack on the crowd in Virginia killed one person and injured as many as two dozen more. A helicopter crash that killed two people outside Charlottesville later in the afternoon also was linked to the rally by State Police.

The group in Austin initially assembled around 7 p.m. and began with small discussions as they waited to take turns sharing their feelings about the day’s event with the entire group through a microphone and speaker.

Candace Aylor, one of the organizers of the Austin vigil, said the event was not intended to be a rally but more as a way to show support for the Virginia counterprotesters who challenged the white supremacists marching in Charlottesville and to pay tribute to the people injured in the car attack.

She said the gathering will only be effective if it’s followed by strong advocacy for policy changes.

“I need you to get uncomfortable after tonight,” Aylor said. “Show up at the (Texas) Capitol and do the work.”

Austin City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan attended the vigil and spoke about his eight months at City Hall and how he has “seen and started to realize the system of subtle white supremacy that exists in that building — and it’s hard to define.”

But he went on to explain that “sometimes the terms aren’t immediately racist, but when you think about land use, when you think about budgets, when you think about how resources are allocated, it is ultimately a lack of equity that has caused many of the problems not just in Austin but across the nation.”

The Rev. John Gage of the United Church of Christ took the microphone to say that those who don’t actively oppose racism are complicit in its oppression.

“This racism, this white supremacy wears our face — and it’s up to us (to end it),” he said.

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