DeKalb rallies against racism and hate after Charlottesville

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DeKalb rallies against racism and hate after Charlottesville

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Joshua Sharpe/AJC
A moment of silence was held at the Decatur Square in DeKalb County on Sunday night.

On the Decatur Square, people tried not to flinch as white wax dripped from vigil candles onto hands while heads were bowed in silence for Charlottesville, Virginia and the country.

The Sunday night rally drew hundreds of mourners after the “Unite the Right” event turned violent in Virginia, leaving 32-year-old Heather Heyer dead and dozens injured. Over in Atlanta, protesters marched through Piedmont Park, with a couple of them defacing the Peace Monument.

In Decatur, the tone was more somber.

When heads raised, local activist Meymoona Freeman led a call and response chant for people the group felt were oppressed.

"I will support those of all religions and faiths," she said, which the crowd shouted back. 

They chanted for the poor, the disabled, the homosexual, the homeless. 

As voices carried, they stood only yards from a Confederate monument behind the historic courthouse. Ironically, the Charlottesville protest had originally been started by people upset with the removal of a Confederate memorial.

Freeman knew all this.

"I don't care if there's some monument (on the Decatur Square)," she shouted to the crowd. "We made this square different."

Attendees said they were appalled by what they saw happening in Charlottesville, where far-right protesters came to the University of Virginia campus carrying torches Friday night.

A memorial to the Charlottesville victims on the square in Decatur. (JOSHUA SHARPE/AJC)

In Decatur, Helena Herring held a sign calling for an end to white supremacy.

As a white woman, she said she benefits from it, "and we have to stand up and fight it.”

Rahim Snow, a Muslim who moved to America from Pakistan some 40 years ago, said he and his family immigrated because of this country's stance on equality for all. He braved the crowd to show he still believed in that, even after men marched through the streets of Virginia with torches and violence erupted.

"It shouldn't be happening in this country," he said. 

Marian Gordin, a 73-year-old Atlantan, said she showed up in her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi to welcome the Freedom Riders who travelled south for equality in 1964. She remembers violence and hatred back then.

"I thought we had made progress," she said, as she held a dripping white candle to symbolize that there was work still to be done.

For more on Atlanta’s reaction to Charlottesville, read here.

Hundreds of people took to the streets of downtown Atlanta on Sunday evening to show their solidarity with the victims of the Charlottesville protest violence.
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