Sonoma County residents mobilized Sunday to raise their voices in unison with dozens of similar rallies across the country against the actions Saturday of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia who triggered violence that left a 32-year-old woman and two state police officers dead, and almost 20 people injured.
Protests held in four cities — Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Cotati and Cloverdale — were organized quickly by progressive activists via social media. Similar protests were held in other Bay Area cities, including San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.
More than 300 people gathered at Old Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa in a hastily convened rally organized with little assistance from traditional activist groups. The rally was called: “No Nazis, No KKK, No Fascist USA: Santa Rosa Stands in Solidarity with Charlottesville.”
“It’s just really distressing to see fascism in groups like the KKK and neo-Nazis spreading their hatred and disrupting lives and actually killing somebody yesterday,” said Laura Gonzalez of Santa Rosa, who helped organized the protest. Gonzalez said she was startled by the turnout given the event was mobilized in less than 24 hours.
Attendees came to condemn the far-right groups that gathered Saturday in Charlottesville to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, an action that kicked off violent clashes with counter-demonstrators, resulting in the death of Heather D. Heyer of Charlottesville. James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio has been charged with second-degree murder in Heyer’s death for allegedly ramming his sports car into a line of cars and striking nearby protesters. The two dead officers were killed in a helicopter crash.
The Santa Rosa protesters later marched through the Santa Rosa Plaza chanting “No Trump. No KKK. No fascist USA” while shoppers took photos and some store employees signaled their support. Some of the protesters’ signs read “Resist Tyranny” and “No more dog whistles. The hounds of hate are loose.”
Hours later, almost 300 people turned out at a protest held at Walnut Park in Petaluma. Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, spoke at that vigil, organized by members of Together We Will Stand Indivisible, Petaluma. At other events in Cloverdale and Cotati attendees were encouraged to bring musical instruments.
Huffman said he came to the Petaluma event because he was still troubled by three young men who displayed Confederate flags during last year’s Petaluma Veterans Day Parade. “All of this crazy, hateful ideology is totally unnatural,” Huffman said.
While placing most of the blame on the white supremacists who triggered the attacks Saturday, Huffman also held President Trump responsible for not unequivocally denouncing the far-right groups, and having people such as Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller in his administration, both of whom, Huffman said, are sympathetic to the alt-right movement.
“There’s blood on President Trump’s hands,” he said. “Anyone who does not see the direct line between this violent white nationalism and the White House just isn’t looking.”
Dave Hoffman of Santa Rosa said he was troubled by the resurgence of white nationalism in the aftermath of Trump’s election.
“I think we have been kidding ourselves about how much was seething beneath the surface in our culture,” said Hoffman, who held a sign with a picture of Heyer as well as the nine victims of the 2015 Charleston church shooting.