Loudouners, Herring convene for second Charlottesville vigil in as many days

Prominent Loudoun County voices, including that of Attorney General Mark Herring (D), reflected on a trying weekend of hate and racism during a vigil in Ashburn Monday night.

Organized in part by local Pastor Michelle Thomas of Holy and Whole Life Changing Ministries and The Loudoun Freedom Center, Monday’s gathering was the second local remembrance in as many days.

“In a sin-sick world, as proven by the white nationalist, alt-right, neo-Nazi ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, the church cannot afford the luxury of being silent at one of the darkest moments in America’s recent history,” Thomas said in a statement before the event. “We are the light of the world. Our job is not to be quiet and comfortable. Our job is to cry loud and spare not declaring prophetically the word of the lord.”

The local vigils are among scores that have sprouted up across the nation since Saturday, when thousands of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and counter-protesters sparked chaos in Charlottesville. During the riots, a 32-year-old woman, Heather D. Heyer, was killed when a 20-year-old Ohio man reportedly drove a car through a crowd of people, and dozens more were seriously injured.

The alleged driver, James Alex Fields Jr., of Ohio, has been charged with second-degree murder.

Additionally, two Virginia State Police troopers – H. Jay Cullen and Berke M.M. Bates – were killed Saturday when their helicopter crashed as they were responding to the bedlam in the small Virginia city.

In Loudoun Monday night, Herring echoed the sentiment of Thomas, saying citizens “should never be silent in the face of injustice” and “never be silent in the face of intolerance.”

“It’s important that we think about peace for Charlottesville, for that community,” said Herring, who is from Leesburg and formerly served on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. “ … The ideology of hatred and bigotry, the ideology of white supremacy and Nazis and neo-Confederates and other terrorists groups have no home anywhere in Virginia.”

Herring has made strengthening the commonwealth’s hate crime laws a priority for his office. Earlier this year, he helped launch the website http://www.NoHateVa.com. According to FBI stats, there were 155 hate crimes in Virginia in 2015, a 21 percent increase from the year before.

Monday night’s vigil followed a remembrance held by Loudoun County Democrats on the courthouse lawn in Leesburg Sunday.

This article originally appeared in the Loudoun Times-Mirror.