Local candlelight vigil held for Charlottesville victims

A vigil was held at Memorial Park in Riverside for the victims of the violence that unfolded in the past 48 hours in Charlottesville, Va.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A vigil was held at Memorial Park in Riverside for the victims of the violence that unfolded in the past 48 hours in Charlottesville, Va. 

A photo of Heather Heyer hung on a modest hand-made poster as a silent reminder of what has been lost in a fight that began over the preservation of a Confederate monument. White nationalists took over that fight and senseless violence broke out injuring more than two dozen in total including those injured when a car plowed through a crowd.

A mob of white nationalists with torches has become the iconic image of what happened in Charlottesville. 

However, people with many equal rights coalitions around Jacksonville want to warn that this tragedy isn't so far away; it could easily happen in Jacksonville. 

Michael Sampson with the Jacksonville Community Action Committee said he was happy with the crowd of 200 - 250 people who came to support the cause.

"People on the First Coast are united against racism and white supremacy," Sampson said. 

For Sampson, it's more than just solidarity for those lost. He took the time to speak on the issue of the Confederate memorials and namesakes around Jacksonville. 

“In Germany, they don’t talk about Hitler, or they don’t have statues of Hitler around. It’s hard for me as a black person, I went to schools named after Confederate leaders -- it’s very difficult for us to see ourselves as being an American citizen when we are in a school named after someone who considered, like Kirby Smith or Andrew Jackson, people who considered us less than American, less than a citizen," Sampson said.

“There’s a growing movement around the nation of folks who are trying to make this change happen and trying to take down these statues," he said.

Kristen Kiernan with Take 'Em Down Jax found hope in the number of people who attended.

“I'm so amazed by our community, it brings me to tears knowing there are so many people who care about other people. It makes me feel like there is a little bit more hope in this community than I thought – I underestimated my people," she said. 

Taking down the statues, according to Kiernan, would give the people of Jacksonville a voice and give them choice in who is celebrated in this city.

“Why can’t we have a positive influence, not people who have killed people, mass genocidal crazy people, why are we honoring these people?” Kiernan said.

Though there were a handful of dissenters at the event, they stood in mostly silence. One man held a confederate flag but said nothing unless approached and another small group of men held an American flag but wore Confederate flag memorabilia. 

Recently threats about violence like what happened in Charlottesville have been threatened to occur much closer to home. Posts on a popular website called 4chan cite Jacksonville or Gainesville as the next 'battle ground.' Beware when clicking this link, the language is vulgar.

Before the event ended all of the candles were lit and as a moment of silence was held for those who suffered from the violence in Charlottesville and Heather Heyer, who paid the ultimate price. 

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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