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Virginia Congregations Condemn White Supremacy After Violent Demonstrations


On screens around the country and the world, people saw an America yesterday where extremists and racists felt no need to hide behind masks or hoods. The event was billed as a protest against plans to remove a Confederate monument in Charlottesville, Va. But at the end of a violent day, three people were dead. In the most shocking incident, a car allegedly driven by a white supremacist mowed down a group of counter-protesters. One woman was killed, and 19 other people were injured in that incident. Virginia's governor, Terry McAuliffe, spoke just a short time ago.


TERRY MCAULIFFE: To the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who came to our beautiful state yesterday, there is no place for you here in Charlottesville.


MCAULIFFE: And there is no place for you in the United States of America.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: NPR's Sarah McCammon joins us now. Sarah, you were with the governor earlier today at a church. What else did he have to say?

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: That's right. Governor Terry McAuliffe was at Zion First African Baptist here in Charlottesville this morning along with several other officials and the mayor of Charlottesville. He did use very strong words to condemn the actions of the white supremacists who came here this weekend. And he tried to offer some comfort. He quoted the words of Jesus from the Bible at the front of the church. He said, in this world, you will have trouble. But take hope, for I have overcome the world. That went over well. The congregation applauded. You know, so there were lots of hopeful words and also a lot of sadness.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I can imagine. How are the churches in Charlottesville responding this morning? How are they offering comfort?

MCCAMMON: Well, I went to two churches. That first one was almost entirely African-American. And I just got out of a almost-entirely white Baptist church service. The weekend's events have certainly been front and center at both - you know, lots of prayers for the city of Charlottesville, calls for unity and, again, condemnations of white supremacy very clearly from both pulpits. The pastor here at First Baptist Park Street, Rob Pochek, called white supremacy, quote, "a lie straight from the pit of hell that cannot coexist with the Gospel of Jesus Christ." So very religious language and very clear condemnations of what's gone on.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What was the mood like among the congregation?

MCCAMMON: Very somber at both. I have to say, though, you know, there's a difference. These are two churches, one almost entirely white, one almost entirely black. I - in the white congregation, I sensed a lot of confusion. I talked to one gentleman who said, you know, white supremacy absolutely needs to be condemned. But from him, I heard more of a sense that everybody needs to kind of settle down - very different in the black church. Incredible sadness.

Several people, you know, just didn't even want to talk and said they almost wish the governor wasn't there because they just needed time to grieve and to try to process everything that had gone on - a real heaviness there, especially. But, really, a lot of sadness in both churches. And pastors, leaders, the governor, the mayor asking everyone to talk about how they can move forward, how they can come together and try to tackle this problem. And also a sense from a lot of people that they hope this isn't how the world views Charlottesville - a sense that a lot of these white supremacists were outsiders coming here to stir up trouble.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: NPR's Sarah McCammon, thank you very much for joining us.

MCCAMMON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon worked for Iowa Public Radio as Morning Edition Host from January 2010 until December 2013.
Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.