Hundreds of people gathered on the steps of the Rhode Island State House Sunday night in a vigil for the victims of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. One woman was killed and another 19 people were injured in the Virginia college town on Saturday, after a man ran his car through a crowd of protesters opposing the white supremacists.
The Providence vigil was “just a gathering of community so that we can see together the power that we have,” according to Ashley Hayes, who helped organize the event. There were no planned speakers or microphones, and the crowd used a call-and-response, or human microphone, method to amplify the people speaking. Hayes began the event, and the crowd repeated her words: “We will not stand for what happened in Charlottesville yesterday.”
The crowd of mostly white people chanted no to white supremacy, neo-natzism, racism, and anti-semitism. Many also criticized President Donald Trump. Joe Lazzerini of Providence, who led chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “Trans Lives Matter” during the event, said that he thinks Trump has made it possible for white supremacists to come forward.
“His presidential campaign, his words, actions, and behaviors have both incited and ignited the violence we saw in Charlottesville yesterday,” Lazzerini said. “His rhetoric isn’t just rhetoric. It’s igniting this violent behavior and this kind of domestic terrorist attack.”
Following a moment of silence, 16-year-old Tobias Nicholas of Providence spoke to the crowd. Tobias is transgender, and talked about how he feels afraid in the current political moment. Noting his own whiteness, Tobias reminded the crowd, “we need to be held accountable for our actions.”
Kiwi Stalley, who lives part-time in Providence, said many events in the city draw a predominantly white crowd. She hopes that future events become more diverse.