Organizer who survived Charlottesville violence ‘grateful for solidarity’ across the country

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.)-- An organizer for the Richmond, Virginia chapter of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), a socialist organization that has seen a major surge in membership following the election of President Donald Trump, remembers "a car careening through a crowd" followed by screaming on Saturday afternoon as he and other activists were marching together against white nationalism.

Tommy, who requested that we not use his last name, told ABC News that two members of DSA were injured during the incident when 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, according to authorities.

The incident took place following a white nationalist rally earlier in the day in the college city.

Of the 19 patients from the car incident Saturday that were transported to UVA Medical Center, 10 are in good condition and nine have been discharged, Angela Taylor with UVA Health Systems said on Sunday afternoon. She added that the hospital has treated additional patients related to Saturday’s events, but the facility does not have an exact number of patients.

Fields was charged with second-degree murder following the incident.

Heather Heyer, 32, was killed while marching in the same group as Tommy and other DSA members. DSA could not confirm whether or not she was in fact a member of their organization, or belonged to another group that was marching with DSA at the time.

A GoFundMe page for Heyer's memorial that was backed by DSA has raised over $80,000 in just 11 hours.

Tommy said that he is "still processing" Saturday’s events, but said that when he saw rallies and marches of solidarity begin to spring up across the country, it brightened his spirits.

"My sister was almost killed by that driver," Tommy said. "Speaking for our little chapter in DSA, when we see [marches and rallies] springing up across the country, it just means so much that so many people are willing to stand with us--and also fight with us."


On Saturday night, emotional gatherings were held from Oakland to New Orleans and New York, where attendees pledged solidarity with those who were attacked, and spoke out against the white supremacist rally that took place in Charlottesville.

More events are planned on Sunday in cities like Washington DC, Charlotte, Chicago, and Denver, among others.

Some of the groups are planned by DSA, like a solidarity rally taking place in Manhattan's Union Square Sunday afternoon, while others are hosted by the group that created the Women's March, and others are being planned by a confluence of activist organizations that are acting in unity.

A memorial has also been set up at the site of where the attack took place in Charlottesville.
Beyond the incident involving Fields, clashes took place from Friday night until Saturday afternoon between white nationalists, counter-protesters, and police in the college town. Images of the clashes, and of white men holding Nazi flags, and giving the Nazi salute, were replayed on social media and on cable news, drawing shock from many.

Tommy said that as a Latino man living in the South, the images of swastikas did not surprise or shock him.

"I hate to break it to people who might not know it, but this kind of hate has always been in America," Tommy said.

He said that beyond the rallies and vigils, the best way to offer support to those who were affected by Saturday's violence was to organize against "the insidious threat of white supremacy."

"Yesterday was the both the happiest and most terrifying day of my life," Tommy said, referring to the comradeship he felt prior to the attack taking place. "If people want to know how to help the people in the south who are dealing with in a very visceral way, they should work in their own communities--organize locally."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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