WASHINGTON — Chanting “The people united will never be defeated,” hundreds rallied at the University of Virginia on Saturday, an effort they say was meant to demand justice over racism.
The “Rally for Justice” event was tied to the one-year anniversary of the white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally, which resulted in the death of counterprotester Heather Heyer.
UVA Students United had organized the rally on the north plaza of the campus’ rotunda. The student group said on the event’s Facebook page that the rally was meant to “reclaim the North Plaza of the Rotunda and demand justice for those who have suffered at the hands of white supremacy.”
But some protesters rallied in a different place than planned. There were no apparent arrests or other issues, although there were some tense moments near the Rotunda.
The Associated Press reports that police had a brief, tense confrontation with students angry over their heavy presence there this weekend.
“Why are you in riot gear? We don’t see no riot here,” activists chanted Saturday evening.
Much of the protest was anti-police in addition to anti-racism.
Shortly before a pre-planned evening rally to mark the anniversary of a campus confrontation between torch-carrying white nationalists and counterprotesters, activists unfurled a banner that said, “Last year they came w/ torches. This year they come w/ badges.”
A group of more than 200 protesters then marched to another part of the University of Virginia’s campus, where many in the crowd shouted at officers in riot gear who had formed a line.
Kibiriti Majuto, a coordinator for UVA Students United, said the students moved to another part of campus because they didn’t want to be “caged” in the area where the rally had been planned.
“How does that create a sense of community? How are we going to be safe in that situation?” he asked.
Majuto said police “were not on our side” last year when white supremacists surrounded counterprotesters on the rotunda.
“Cops and Klan go hand in hand,” he said.
Charlottesville city councilman Wes Bellamy said he tried to diffuse the situation and told the police commander that the students were upset by the officers’ tactics, calling the officers’ riot gear “over the top.”
After a few minutes, most of the demonstrators began to walk away. There were no immediate reports of arrests on campus.
The rest of the day had been much quieter.
On Sunday, the District is bracing for a “Unite the Right 2” anniversary event. Organizer Jason Kessler sought out Washington after failing to get approval in Charlottesville. Several counter protests and rallies also have been planned for Sunday.
WTOP’s Max Smith contributed to this report from Charlottesville, Va. The Associated Press contributed to this report.