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White Supremacist Rally In Virginia Turns Violent

Aug 12, 2017
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STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

Now let's turn to Wes Bellamy. He's the vice-mayor of Charlottesville. He joins me now by phone.

Hi, Wes.

WES BELLAMY: Hi. Dr. Wes Bellamy.

SMITH: Dr. Bellamy.

BELLAMY: I just got my doctoral degree yesterday, so I'm still basking in the glow.

SMITH: Congratulations. And thank you for taking the time.

BELLAMY: Thank you. In all seriousness, thank you.

SMITH: So we have one person dead in Charlottesville, a reported 19 injured. What is your reaction...

BELLAMY: Yes.

SMITH: ...To what's going on in your city?

BELLAMY: Disappointed, to say the least. Honestly, I'm heartbroken at the fact that someone has lost their life over the foolish tactics of - let's just call it what it is - white supremacists and white nationalists, who do not want to see people have equity, do not want the people to be treated as equals. They don't want equality. They just want to show everybody that they are the superior race, as they say in their minds. And they feel as if they can do whatever they want to do whenever they want to do it.

And honestly speaking, if this doesn't bring us together - people from different nationalities, people from different ethnicities, different races, different ages, different denominations in church and racial beliefs and socioeconomic status - if this doesn't bring all of those groups together to stand up and stand united against hate, I honestly do not know what will. Someone has lost their life. Thirteen people were ran over and hit.

These individuals have literally come here and said that they wanted to invoke terror over all of us. And while, again, I'm disappointed and heartbroken that someone has lost their life, I firmly do believe that this will be the opportunity that we need for us to stand up and stand together.

SMITH: What do you plan to do now? Are there more demonstrations planned for tonight? Are there police watching for more trouble?

BELLAMY: We're working with our law enforcement, and they're actively trying to get a handle on the situation. I have - we've been having some meetings and will be releasing more information in the very near future.

SMITH: Do you have a message for people right now coming from Charlottesville?

BELLAMY: Yes. Yes. The images that you see on television and that you're hearing do not reflect the people of the city of Charlottesville. Now, yes, we are a community and a city that has a lot of issues. As many of you are aware, we're entrenched in a battle to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee. But what you're seeing is bigger than a statue.

What you're seeing are outside groups and people - some who live here, but most of them do not live here - believe that they can come take over our town. And our city, our community, our area is better than that. The Charlottesville that I know, the Charlottesville that I've been at since I was 21 years old and has literally helped me raise and grow from a young man to a 30-year-old father, husband, community (inaudible) leader, the Charlottesville that I know is better than what you see on television. And we will stand together.

SMITH: Now, all of...

BELLAMY: So if you want to help us, if you want to help us, pray for us or send positive energy, or make a difference and decide to stand up with us and stand together. Sorry.

SMITH: No, no, I was wondering - this was all sparked by the statue of Robert E. Lee. What is the...

BELLAMY: No, no, it was not. This is not all sparked by the statue of Robert E. Lee. We have to keep in mind that this is a city and a area that literally shut down schools during the massive resistance of the 1950s instead of integrating them. This is a city/area that literally tore down an entire African-American community that was called Vinegar Hills.

This is also a city in which (unintelligible) - just a few years ago, African-American males were being stopped and their mouths were being swabbed by police officers looking for DNA. No, this does not just start with the statue. The statue was what some individuals are using as a mask to hide and utilize and push out their hateful agenda. This isn't a...

SMITH: We...

BELLAMY: ...Statue issue. This is white supremacy.

SMITH: We have to...

BELLAMY: Let's call it what it is.

SMITH: ...Leave it right there. But that was Wes Bellamy, vice-mayor of Charlottesville. Wes, thank you.

BELLAMY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.