ATLANTA — The aftermath of the weekend’s white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville, and the resulting violence, reverberated in the last hours of the annual Netroots Nation conference. On Saturday afternoon, attendees of the progressive gathering quietly shared the latest news from Virginia. Some began organizing a response.
One of the first responses came from Mikey Franklin, a digital director of the labor-backed Good Jobs Nation campaign, who had found a print shop that could quickly make T-shirts. Franklin made a black-and-white shirt reading “Punch More Nazis,” then was dogged by questions about them, then printed 30 more.
“They’re all spoken for,” Franklin said as he distributed the last shirt. “I’m not making a profit — there should be no financial profit in punching Nazis.”
At 7 p.m., hundreds of Netroots attendees gathered in a park across from the Hyatt Regency where the conference had been held. They held signs with slogans ranging from the optimistic (“United against hate”) to the profane (“F— white supremacy”) to the ultra-specific (“This Palestinian supports Black Intifada”). After forming into a long, winding line, they marched to the state Capitol, where labor organizer Dolores Huerta led them in prayer.
“Let’s pray for the people who have been killed and injured,” she said. “Let’s pray for the haters, that the hate comes out of their hearts.”
As the sun set, the protesters stood in a circle, listening to loping speeches that tied the events in Charlottesville to everything from the disability rights movement to white identity in America. The protest broke up with a chant: “It is our duty to win. We must love each other and respect each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
By that time, many of the groups involved in the conference — MoveOn, Indivisible, Greenpeace, Our Revolution and more — had compiled and shared a list of vigils taking place over the rest of the weekend. Some, like a protest at Delaware’s state fair, would demand the banishment of Confederate memorabilia — one of the ostensible flash points of the racist march in Charlottesville.