‘From Charlottesville to D.C.’ Participants Share Reasons for Marching

| September 4, 2017 | 0 Comments | News

Marchers in the “From Charlottesville to D.C. March to Confront White Supremacy” hold signs while marching along Route 29 in Virginia. (David Moriya)

Those marching with “From Charlottesville to D.C.: March to Confront White Supremacy” traveled through Gainesville and along the Manassas Battlefield via Route 29, Sept. 4, before arriving in Centreville.

Around 10:30 a.m., after a driving up and down Lee Highway, Bristow Beat and another reporter located a small group of protesters who gathered at the southern end of the battlefield.

Several of those marchers shared their reasons for wanting to participate. Ben Doernberg, a native of Charlottesville, who now lives in Boston, traveled back to Virginia to participate in the march.

“Nazis literally marched through my hometown,” said Doernberg. “I feel like I pretty much had to drop everything [and join the march.]”

Doernberg is a member of a group called “IfNotNow,” an American Jewish organization opposing Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands and policies based upon Islamophobia.

Doernberg said he felt obligated to participate not only as a Jew, but as a supporter of those who more regularly face discrimination and bigotry.

“This is the first time that me and my family felt unsafe in Charlottesville, but for black and brown people they experience [this kind of discrimination] everyday,” said Doernberg. “I think the only way we can stay safe is if everyone targeted by the white supremacists sticks together – gay people, undocumented people, Jews, black and brown people.”

Most of the protesters were surprised to hear that some people found their message to be divisive rather than unifying.

“If people are divided on whether or not they like white supremacy than that’s sad to hear. We just have to do better. We cannot accept another 300 years of white supremacy,” said Doernberg.

Elaine Kern, a music director from a church in Pennsylvania, came down to Prince William to march with her adult daughter who has marched for other causes in D.C. Kern said she protested the Vietnam War in the 60’s and does not want to lose the ground they have won for issues such as civil rights.

“I’m grateful because I was a protester back then. It’s great for people to take their voice and use it. When the collective can come together for the general good, it brings positive energy to our whole country.”

Kern believes activists of her generation expect change and forward motion. In this particular march, she also felt compelled to participate as a mother, saying “I have such compassion for Heather (Heyer)’s mother. She wants to bring awareness by speaking out against violent people.”

Jen Crane of Ashburn brought her 2-year-old daughter, Lucille, to march with her, albeit from her stroller.

“I’m marching for her, so she doesn’t have to,” said Crane.

Crane, who is caucasian, believes more white people need to stand up for all people and not remain silent.

“We need to talk to white people. We need white voices to change white minds.”

Caleb-Michael Files and Mohammed Naeem are two of the march’s organizers. Since leaving Charlottesville a week ago, they have marched continuously with nearly 30 others in their core group members and have been joined by 75-200 total walkers per day. Their numbers continued to grow as they have approached D.C.

Files and Naeem say they have received much support along the way.

“We assume all honks are good honks. Any interaction is good, because we’re getting our message out,” Files said.

Files said they are doing their best not to hold up traffic, which was light Labor Day morning. They have been walking on the shoulder. However, people tend to change lanes regardless and drivers often rubber neck even in the southbound lanes.

The marchers have been accompanied by buses they rented, and the Virginia State Police stay close by as well. The bus is their in case they need to make a quick exit, said Files.

The group raised $45,000 to pay for the necessities it needed for the trip including buses, food, medical supplies, logistics and sleeping bags. People made donations via their website.

Files said their donations average $45. However, the donation website, YouCaring.com also allows donors to hide their name and amount, which some chose to do.

Files described the march as a grassroots effort with a message coming from average citizens who felt it was important to push back against racist attitudes becoming normalized and speak up for acceptance and unity.

“We definitely want people to pay attention. The system of white supremacy is what we are trying to dismantle.”

Photos used with permission of photographer David Moriya of Roguephoto.org. Moriya has been documenting the journey since Charlottesville.  

© 2017, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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