Rallies, vigils held in response to violence in Virginia

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Hundreds attended a rally Sunday at the Rhode Island State House to show solidarity with the victims who were run down by a car at Saturday’s white supremacist rally in Virginia.

The vigil, organized by the group ResistHateRI, was meant to show support to the victims of the attack in Charlottesville that left a 32-year-old woman dead and 19 others hurt. The deadly attack followed violent clashes between white supremacist demonstrators and counter-protesters. An initial protest in Virginia on Friday night was spurred by the decision to remove a statue of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee.

“During the civil rights era we changed laws, but we didn’t change hearts,” said Martha Yager of Seekonk. She came to Sunday’s State House rally with a sign that read, “Resistance is not enough. We need deep change.”

She said she hopes the rally showed that “love and the will to change is strong in Providence.”

On Sunday evening, small group of demonstrators met at the University Heights shopping plaza, and then walked to the State House for a peaceful gathering that included a moment of silence.

The speakers at the event didn’t bring a microphone. Improvising, the crowd recited their messages, sentence-by-sentence, in unison. Their voices filling the night.

The message: “We won’t stand for this,” explained Ashley Hayes, who helped assemble the group. “We are a united front. We are a large group and we’re going to speak up and speak out about what’s happening in this country.”

Some demonstrators carried signs condemning white supremacy; others signs targeted President Donald Trump. One woman carried a white poster emblazoned with two black letters: “NO.”

The Providence rally ran concurrent with another in South Kingstown at the town hall. Organizers there wrote in an event listing on Facebook that they would be “sending a message that South County welcomes all people regardless of race and nationality.”

Earlier Sunday, Eyewitness News caught up with Congressman David Cicilline at an event to commemorate the end of World War II. He said the timing of Sunday’s events is meaningful.

“To think about where we’re marking the end of the second World War where these great American heroes defeated Nazism, and yesterday we saw in our country hate groups like the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists march with torches,” said Cicilline. “It’s just a reminder that the best way we can honor the great American heroes, the veterans who fought and gave their lives, is to still value what they fought for.”