(The Washington Post)

In sight of one of the most notorious slave markets of the pre-Civil War south, the Rev. Sylvester Turner asked hundreds of people Sunday night to pray for President Trump to have a change of heart and heal the nation’s racial divide.

Several hundred had people gathered with clergy and politicians for a vigil around the Slavery Reconciliation Statue, a towering stone figure that represents atonement for Richmond’s role in the slave trade.

“Look over our president,” Turner thundered in prayer. “He may not be all, Lord God, that he can be at this time, but I believe that you are a heart-changing God. I believe that when prayer and praises go up, lessons come down.”

Activists throughout the country — including in Virginia and the Washington region — held vigils Sunday in response to the white nationalist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville on Saturday that erupted into violence and resulted in the death of one counterprotester and the injury of more than a dozen.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who spent Sunday morning visiting churches in Charlottesville, attended the Richmond vigil looking unusually somber. He had been angry on Saturday, he told the crowd, but now he was sad.

“It’s been a rough couple of days for our beautiful commonwealth,” McAuliffe said, adding that he had just been visiting with the families of the two state troopers who were killed when their helicopter crashed while patrolling the Charlottesville rally. “To go in the homes and talk to the children whose father, neither one are coming home tonight,” he said, then paused as he grew emotional.

McAuliffe then spoke of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman who was killed when a driver rear-ended another car and pushed vehicles into a crowd of peaceful protesters. “She was doing what she loved, she was fighting for democracy, free speech, and to stop hatred and bigotry,” he said, as someone in the crowd issued a soft “Amen.”

Many of the multiracial crowd attending the vigil were from church groups. Several from local Unitarian Universalist churches wore yellow shirts that read, “Standing on the side of love.” Others held signs, including “Stop pretending your racism is patriotism” and “No one is free when others are repressed,” and one person waved a large American flag. Parents held up small children in the hot sun, straining to hear as cars whizzed by on a highway overpass.

“We thought it was important for us to come together at such a time as this,” state Del. Delores McQuinn (D-Richmond City), who helped put together the vigil, told the crowd. Like many of Richmond’s leaders, she is African American. “We stand at this reconciliation statue as a symbolic gesture to remind us that we still have work to do. The battle to fight hatred, racism, prejudice and faces of evil is not over.”

(Whitney Leaming,Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)

It’s hard, she said, sounding both weary and angry, to know what to do next after a display of open bigotry such as the one that gripped Charlottesville over the weekend. The answer, she said, is not in violence or in political sniping.

“We battle evil by fighting for the heart and the soul of America. Democracy in this nation. We do not fight fire with fire,” she shouted, her voice breaking, “but we fight fire with faith, and that’s why we are here today. . . . We continue to walk in unity with the understanding that we are our brother’s keeper.”

Hundreds of people gathered in Charlottesville on Sunday for a vigil at the spot where Heyer was killed.

In Washington on Sunday, several hundred people marched down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, past the Trump International Hotel and toward the statue of Confederate Gen. Albert Pike.

Among those marching was 11-year-old Maya Schindler of the District, who was attending with her parents and younger brother.

“It’s not right what’s happening,” she said. “It’s our duty to protest.”

“It’s unfortunate how many times we’ve done this,” added her mother, Alison Auerbach. “This is Maya’s eighth or ninth march. . . . We want to be a model for our kids but she’s often leading us.”

Sarah Kamins was one of those who arrived early Sunday for a march to the White House and demonstration.

The 31-year-old held up a sign that read, “This is not normal,” and said she had just attended another gathering in Arlington, where she lives. She was soon joined by scores more marchers who filled Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Lafayette Square.

“I’m appalled we’re letting neo-Nazis and white supremacists lead the conversation,” Kamins said. “I’m really disheartened this is happening.”

The marchers listened to speeches by progressive activists and chanted, “This is what democracy looks like.”

In Richmond, the crowd and speakers alike seemed to struggle with how political to make the moment. Many spoke of the need to transcend partisan differences, but most also made reference to the need to start by calling racism by its name — a not-so-veiled reference to President Trump’s failure to denounce the white supremacists in his tweets Saturday.

So when McAuliffe in his remarks said, “We gotta all figure out, how did we get to this place?” Someone in the crowd replied, “Trump,” while someone else warned, “Stop!”

Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D) was blunt in his assessment. “We got here because we thought that someone who refused to disassociate himself with white supremacy could not get elected president of the United States. We were wrong!” he said, to cheers from the crowd.

After the speeches, though, the crowd sang hymns and heard prayers from several ministers, such as Turner, who said that while he didn’t vote for Trump, it does no good to deny the president’s vital role in society.

“I hear people say, we not gonna call him our president,” said Turner, the minister of Pilgrim Baptist Church in Richmond. “We can’t fix this country when we deny who is at the head of this country.”

Afterward, the crowd held hands and sang “We Shall Overcome.” McAuliffe hugged and shook hands as he made his way through the crowd to a waiting SUV and said he had not heard from the president on Sunday.

“It’s sad,” he said, then shrugged. “It is what it is. An opportunity to lead — but we know what we’re dealing with.”

In Washington, the tone at Lafayette Square near the White House was more raucous, as about a hundred marchers arrived before 7 p.m. chanting “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!”

Many held signs denouncing Nazis and the Unite the Right rally that erupted into violence on Saturday in Charlottesville. Marchers also held a moment of silence for the three people who died on Saturday.

University of Virginia alums Mark Muir and Pamela Muir, of Arlington, met as freshmen living in the same dorm. They both graduated from the Charlottesville school in 1985; their now-adult children both decided to go UVA as well.

So when white nationalists held rallies in Charlottesville on Friday and Saturday, Pamela, 54, said she took it “personally.”

“It’s just heartbreaking that there’s so much hate,” she said while participating in the D.C. march. “Diversity is what made the university great.”

Mark Muir, 54, was heartened to see so many other people marching.

“Tonight was uplifting,” he said.

Elspeth Suthers, 34, of the District, arrived holding a sign that read, “Nazis bad this shouldn’t be that hard.”

“I’m just disturbed there can even be a major white-power rally,” she said. “It’s incumbent on us to show people they do not reflect our values, our country’s values.”

The candlelight vigil at Lafayette Square was followed by a march, and another took place on the Mall. There were also several Facebook events for vigils in cities including Houston, New York, Philadelphia and numerous towns across Virginia.

“I saw hurt and anger in the D.C. community [groups] and wanted to create something organized we could rally behind,” said Meredith Broadway, who planned the candlelight vigil at Lafayette Square. “I absolutely believe this needs to be a call to action as well as time of reflection. Voices from [people of color] in the community should be amplified.”

Broadway, a 25-year-old D.C. transplant from Dallas, has attended numerous events supporting progressive causes, including the Women’s March, Science March and protests against the Muslim ban at Dulles International Airport since moving to the area a year ago, but it was always as a participant and not as an organizer.

That changed Saturday night when Broadway logged onto her Facebook account and created the Charlottesville Candlelight Vigil event scheduled for Sunday night. As of early Sunday afternoon, more than 500 people had marked down that they are attending, with over 2,000 interested.

The vigil was originally planned for Saturday evening, but Broadway postponed it due to weather. The delay also gave Broadway a chance to reach out and partner with the Washington Peace Center and Showing Up for Racial Justice DC groups.

“If you aren’t outraged, then you aren’t paying attention,” said Eugene Puryear of Stop Police Terror Project DC, who led the march toward Confederate Gen. Albert Pike’s statue.

Far-right groups that included white supremacists and neo-Nazis at the Unite the Right rally gathered in Charlottesville starting on Friday night to protest the removal of Confederate monuments and memorials, including the proposed removal of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee memorial in Emancipation Park.

“I hope that this serves as a learning opportunity, particular the Caucasian community in D.C.,” said Broadway, a National Endowment for the Humanities grant recipient who is a fellow in Washington. “Hopefully, people will come away with a renewed energy to strengthen the community and push forward under the [Trump] administration.”