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University of Virginia limps back to normalcy

Students stand united against hate days after white supremacists marched through their campus and Charlottesville erupted in violence.
BY Uttara Choudhury |   19-08-2017
Students at the University of Virginia hold a peaceful candlelight vigil against hate

The University of Virginia (UVA) returned to its regular operating schedule this week after a deadly white supremacist rally resulted in violence and mayhem, jolting the progressive university town. Thousands gathered at the University of Virginia campus for a peaceful candlelight vigil against hate days after Charlottesville erupted in chaos and violence during a white nationalist rally.
UVA students sang "we are not afraid," a verse from "We Shall Overcome" as they walked the same route that torch-bearing white nationalists marched last Friday protesting the removal of the Confederate statue of General Robert E. Lee. Students were coming to terms with how hundreds of angry white men from the “alt-right," had marched through their quiet campus last Friday, holding torches, chanting racist and Nazi slogans like “blood and soil.” Many of the alt-right marchers photographed in plain sight by media outlets looked like they were dressed for war, some brazenly brandishing weapons.
"I have struggled to let go of my anger over what was done to us last weekend, but seeing 5,000 of my fellow citizens tonight sure helped," tweeted University of Virginia Dean of Students Allen Groves.
The Associated Press reported that Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal was killed when James Alex Fields, 20, ploughed a car into a crowd protesting the white nationalist rally. The collision also injured 19 others. Two Virginia state policemen also died when their helicopter crashed as they patrolled the site of clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters.
The Indian Student Association at the University of Virginia is going out on a limb to help freshmen feel comfortable on campus after the terrifying torchlight march. Many of the 3,800 or so first-year students have dreamed of this school for years.
"A few are scared the people may come back, but most of the newcomers strike me as resilient," said Anjali Shankar, member of the Indian Student Association at the University of Virginia.
"At times like this we tell our members to stick together, go out in groups if they are going out at night. We are picking people up from the airport," she added. "We are helping folks move in, settle down."
Meanwhile, Lecrae, an American hip hop artist, publicly extended financial assistance to any freshmen who wanted to transfer out of the University of Virginia. There were reports that at least three students, including two African American women, had sought the musician's help.  
“I was angry at the audacity where people would feel like they could just storm a campus in protest with that type of visceral hatred. They didn’t even wear masks. They just said, I’m here to hate and that’s a scary thing for students to have to encounter,” Lecrae told reporters.
This is not the University of Virginia's first encounter with hate. Flyers showing beefy white men in camouflage, wielding assault rifles against the background of a fluttering American flag, had sprung up like poison ivy after the 2016 US elections, in the sprawling, culturally diverse UVA campus calling for "tar and feather vigilante squads." UVA experienced a series of hate crimes, with anti-gay, anti-Muslim, and anti-Semitic slurs written on doors and buildings.
The violence over the weekend has sparked deep soul searching among former UVA students, current ones and the faculty. A former University of Virginia student reflected on the complicated racial history of her alma mater.
"Until this week, I never knew that my alma mater, the University of Virginia, owned slaves. We were told that slaves built the school, that our founder Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, and that faculty and students brought some of their own slaves to Charlottesville with them," Story Hinckley wrote in "The Christian Science Monitor."
Hinckley holds a B.A. from the University of Virginia where she double majored in Political Science and Environmental Thought and Practice.
"I know a school that looks too idyllic to be real, with white pillars under the shadow of the Blue Ridge. I know a school with smart people, who debate political theory and hike Humpback Rock on the weekends. I know a school that paints supportive messages on Beta Bridge, has an honor system, and hates hate. I know a school that students are proud of," Hinckley added.
UVA alumni have disavowed Richard Spencer, a leader of the white nationalist movement and creator of the term “alt-right,” who graduated from the University of Virginia with an English literature degree in 2001. During the 2016 presidential election, the white nationalist movement often described as the “alt-right” and its founder, Spencer, captured US headlines.
Uttara Choudhury is a writer for Forbes India and The Wire. In 1997, she went on the British Chevening Scholarship to study Journalism in the University of Westminster, in London. 



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