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Goreham, Borough Council Speak Out on Charlottesville

by on August 15, 2017 4:32 PM

In the wake of violence stemming from a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham and borough council spoke out against hate groups and intimidation.

Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia, was the site of the "Unite the Right" rally over the weekend, where white supremacist groups rallied to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The groups clashed with counter-protestors, turning the weekend violent and deadly.

Prior to Monday's borough council work session, Goreham delivered a statement on behalf of herself and the council

"We, the Mayor and council of State College, wish to add our voices to those condemning the Nazi, KKK and white supremacist movement which tried to overwhelm the city of Charlottesvile on Friday night," Goreham said. "Marching with torches, guns and symbols, these extremists were looking for targets to attack or goad into attacking them.

"This is not free speech. It was an attempt to silence through fear and terrorism." 

One person, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was killed when she was walking in the street with counter-protestors and a car allegedly driven by James Alex Fields Jr. rammed through the crowd. Nineteen others also were injured. Two Virginia State Police troopers, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Berke M. M. Bates were killed in the crash of a helicopter that had been circling above the protests.

Goreham's statement commended those who have made their voices heard in opposition to white supremacist groups.

"While we regret the potential violence of the confrontations between the two groups, we strongly believe it is necessary and right to stand up and clearly state our revulsion at this attempt to destroy our political system through force and based on racism," she said.

"We applaud those who marched against this, making clear that America is a pluralistic and generous society with room for those of all colors, religions, ethnic groups and personal beliefs."

Goreham also is sending a letter to Charlottesville Mayor Michael Singer.

Rev. Carol Thomas Cissel, the new minister at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County, spoke about the events during the public comment period.

"My heart is broken," she said. "What happened in Charlottesville on Saturday has cracked a part of me wide open again. Why? I am cracked wide open because this is not who we are. Running over a woman for speaking her mind and protesting, as was her right, is not who we are."

Thomas Cissel said that even though the weekend's events occurred somewhere else, they still impact the local community.

"I know this awful event did not happen in Happy Valley and I feel blessed that it did not," she said. "But we can't simply count our blessings. Charlottesville is not that far away... [E]ven here in State College we have to acknowledge what took place on Saturday, and then we have to be intentional as we act in ways to protect those on the margins of our lives."

She quoted at length from a Washington Post editorial which urged that people cannot be silent in the face of racism. Thomas Cissel concluded by offering a prayer.

"After the words there is quiet," she said. "After the songs there is silence. After the crowd has scattered only the trampled grass recalls the gathering. Peace and justice have need of you. After the words and the music and the gathering, may we have the depth for dedication to justice. May we each be apostles to peace."

Borough leadership and Thomas Cissel joined others in the local community in condemning hate groups and the violence that occurred in Charlottesville.

Penn State President Eric Barron and the Penn State College Democrats and College Republicans all issued statements which condemned hatred, bigotry and violence following the events in Charlottesvile.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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