On Tuesday, April 17, Corey Long’s trial was granted a continuance until June after his lawyers rejected a plea deal. Long became known across the country after the August 12, 2017, “Unite the Right” rally at Charlottesville, Virginia’s Emancipation Park, where he was photographed standing defiantly against a man wielding a Confederate battle flag as a club. In the photo Long appears to have placed his body in between a group of violent white supremacists and an elderly man. Filmed from farther away, a video captured the events immediately before and immediately after Long ignited an aerosol spray can to defend himself against the white supremacists. In the seconds leading up to the photograph, the men coming down the steps from Emancipation Park can be seen swinging clubs at Long, and a man can be seen firing a gun at him from behind. Despite all of this, Corey Long still faces criminal charges for his actions that day.
Corey Long is not the only one to face criminal charges for defending Charlottesville against the Neo-Nazis who came from far and wide to incite and commit violence in Charlottesville. Two other Black men, DeAndre Harris and Donald Blakney, were also arrested and have appeared in court. DeAndre Harris, who faced misdemeanor assault and battery charges for defending himself against a mob of white supremacists attacking him in a parking garage, was acquitted on March 16. On April 16, Donald Blakney was indicted on charges of malicious wounding for allegedly striking a protester at the Nazi rally who had hit him and called him racial slurs.
Much of the planning for the Unite the Right rally was done over Discord chat, and in the weeks and months following August 12, Discord chat logs have been released revealing that much of the violence of that weekend was premeditated. The chat logs reveal discussions of which weapons the white supremacists could get away with carrying, in what situation “Stand Your Ground” laws may apply (looking for excuses to potentially kill counter-protesters), which places of worship should be targeted, and how to weaponize the media and the criminal justice system against counter-protesters, particularly people of color.
In many ways, the Unite the Right rally was a spectacular failure. Immediately following the rally, several fascist leaders faced criminal charges. More recently, factions have disbanded and Richard Spencer himself announced the halting of his college tour, largely due to antifascist activists who have stood up to oppose him wherever he shows his face. However, there are still possible victories that the hundreds of white supremacists who attended the Unite the Right rally might still claim. These include the campaign rename Emancipation and Justice Parks, the mandate to remove the shroud covering the Robert E. Lee statue at Emancipation Park, the continued use of the phrase “alt-left” in discourse on political extremism to create a false equivalency between the left and the far-right, and especially the lingering possibility that Corey Long and Donald Blakney may be convicted for their actions in defending Charlottesville against white supremacy. We must not let this happen.
Many of the protesters who have been at the courthouse in support of Harris, Blakney, and Long have been University of Virginia students. We must recognize that these men, and many others like them, have allowed us to feel safer on Grounds by making Richard Spencer, and people like him, afraid to continue his incitement of white Neo-Nazi violence on college campuses across the country. These men quite literally put their lives on the line on August 12 to defend our community, and we owe them our gratitude as well as our support. Every student at the University of Virginia who opposes fascism should speak out against it. Charlottesville must show up in support of these men who continue to fight against white supremacy, but this time in the courtroom instead of in the streets.