Thousands Gather in Charlottesville for Peaceful Candlelight Vigil Against Hate

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Hundreds of people march peacefully with lit candles across the University of Virginia campus on Aug. 16, 2017, in Charlottesville, VA, in the wake of violence in the city and against torch-lit white nationalist parade the same campus last Friday night. 

Five days after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent and resulted in the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, thousands of citizens gathered on the University of Virginia campus for a peaceful candelight vigil Wednesday night (Aug. 16) against hate and violence. The marchers moved along the same route that torch-carrying neo-Nazis and KKK sympathizers walked last Friday (Aug. 11), according to CBS News

In an effort to avoid being disrupted, the organizers, which included students and faculty, spread word about Wednesday night's gathering through text, phone calls and private Facebook messages and no members of the white nationalist group behind last weekend's violence were in evidence during the event. "What happened on Friday night was a tragedy and we're here to take back the lawn for this student generation, all the previous, all the future generations of students who walked the Lawn," march attendee Jerry Connor told a CBS affiliate. "The Lawn stands for liberty, equality, justice and freedom."

Participants sang songs of comfort, determination and unity including "We Shall Overcome," "This Little Light of Mine," "The Star Spangled Banner" and the UVA anthem "The Good Old Song," while a speaker read the Maya Angelou poem "Still I Rise." The march took place just hours after a memorial for paralegal Heyer, who was killed on Saturday when a purported 20-year-old Nazi sympathizer allegedly plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters at high speed, injuring 19 others.

"The energy here is beautiful," Kara Maley, an employee of the university's Department of Family Medicine told CNN. "I'm here to support this community in healing and ... really give back the love that I know exists here," she said.

 

This is exactly what we needed. #leanonme #charlottesville #hoostogether #uva #takebackthelawn

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"They tried to change who we are and after we have been grieving for those few days. I think that we are back on our feet we are going to be stronger than ever, Charlottesville," the city's Mayor, Mike Signer, said. The peaceful marchers held a moment of silence for Heyer and State Troopers Jay Cullen and Berke Bates, who lost their lives when a police helicopter crashed on Saturday while monitoring the neo-Nazi protest. CBS reported that nearly 2,000 people also rallied against white supremacists on the streets of downtown Philadelphia on Wednesday at the "Philly is Charlottesville March and Rally." 

At Heyer's memorial earlier in the day, her mother, Susan Bro, told mourners: "They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what? You just magnified her."