Laura Salamendra, of the Geneva Women’s Assembly, thanked people for coming together. She spoke movingly about the fact that white supremacy is not new and not confined to Charlottesville. Salamendra also introduced the evening’s speakers. These included area ministers as well as representatives from local activist groups, Tools for Social Change, #Reeds Last Term, and the We Exist Coalition of the Finger Lakes.
The crowd frequently interrupted the speakers with applause and shouts of agreement.
Maurice Charles, Chaplain at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, urged the crowd to recognize the falseness of appeals to national unity. There are times when it is important to be divided and to know which side one is one. Now is a time for division.
Shauna Marie O’Toole, from the We Exist Coalition, emphasized the need to break down the systemic racism and bigotries that exist in the America. She said we must “make sure that these hatemongers do not take control ever again.”
Speaking for the Geneva Women’s Assembly was Party for Socialism and Liberation member Rob Maclean. He emphasized the courage of those who fought back against the white supremacists in Charlottesville as well as the complicity of the police as they stood aside and allowed violent assault. Maclean noted that “moments before Heather Heyer died and 19 other peaceful protesters were severely injured, people in the streets were celebrating.” He explained that “despite the violence and threats, despite the numerous armed men impersonating a ‘militia’ movement, despite the tacit support offered by the police, the people won anyway. They pushed the racists out of the city, denied them a platform, and militantly opposed the normalization of white supremacy that was the official goal of the Unite the Right rally.”
The actions in Charlottesville need to be recognized as the strength the Left has when it comes together. As Maclean told the Geneva crowd, what we saw in Charlottesville was how, “in the hundreds and thousands, people on the Left organized themselves and successfully held back the racists’ agenda. Socialists, anarchists, Black, white, POC, women, queer and trans people fought shoulder to shoulder against the rising tide of fascism–and won! We should remember the feeling and the lessons of this victory and this celebratory moment even as we mourn the fallen.”
Like some of the other speakers, Maclean emphasized the importance of organized struggle. He concluded: “We need a determined, disciplined, and militant movement to entirely restructure the institutions that serve only to repress and incapacitate the people. We need real community power and real self-determination, especially for Black communities forged by racist zoning and housing laws and continuously under racist police occupation. And people like me–white people, I mean, white men especially since we are the bodies fascism attempts to recruit–need to go beyond “denouncing” or “condemning” white supremacy and commit to actively dismantling the structures of racist, patriarchal capitalism.”