Keeping peace in P’Slope: Locals rally in response to fatal Charlottesville violence

No hate: Congresswoman Yvette Clarke spoke at Grand Army Plaza, where hundreds of locals gathered to condemn the deadly voilence that broke out during last weekend’s white nationalist demonstrations in Virginia.
Liat Olenick

They took it to the extremists.

Hundreds of Kings County activists occupied Grand Army Plaza on Aug. 13 to condemn the fatal violence that consumed a Virginia city on Aug. 12 when Confederate-flag-waving white supremacists clashed with anti-fascist protestors, leaving one person dead.

“What happened on Saturday was incredibly disturbing and upsetting, and people were looking for an outlet,” said Liat Olenick, co-founder of anti-extremist group Indivisible Nation BK, which organized the event. “One of the things a protest or rally offers is knowing you’re not alone in your outrage, and reminding us of all the work we have to do.”

The organization first called for the rally, which was announced on Aug. 10, in response to comments President Trump made last week that antagonized an escalating conflict with North Korea.

But the demonstration’s focus quickly turned south after fighting erupted between white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and Ku Klux Klan members — who descended on Charlottesville, Virginia to oppose the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a city park — and counter-protestors who gathered to oppose the extremists. A 20-year-old man and alleged Nazi sympathizer drove his car into a crowd of non-violent demonstrators, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring several others before the conflict subsided.

Organizers of the Brooklyn rally were pleased by the number of locals who attended despite the short notice, according to Olenick, who said hundreds of participants gathered beneath the plaza’s historic Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch for the event.

“We were really happy,” she said. “When we called it, we were expecting something pretty small, and given how quick we put it out there, we were definitely pleased with the turnout.”

Protesting Brooklynites carried signs reading “peace and sanity” and “reject white supremacists” while shouting chants that included “No hate, no fear, stand up, fight back.”

They were joined by several area pols, including Councilmen Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) and Jumaane Williams (D–Flatbush), Assembly members Robert Carroll (D–Park Slope) and Jo Anne Simon (D– Downtown), Public Advocate Letitia James, and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D–Flatbush), whose petition to remove General Lee’s name from a street on Brooklyn’s Fort Hamilton military base was denied by the U.S. Army this month.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.

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