The University of Virginia lit up with candles Wednesday night as people gathered in response to the weekend's violence in Charlottesville. The vigil drew thousands, CNN reports, and songs including "We Shall Overcome" and "God Bless America" rang out as the demonstrators stood on the same campus where white nationalist rallies took place on Friday and Saturday.
A 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, was killed on Saturday while counter-protesting the gathering of neo-Nazis and KKK members defending a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee the city planned to take down. The car that rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters and killed Heyer also injured 19 others. A separate memorial was held in Charlottesville for Heyer on Wednesday.
Wednesday night's vigil created the image of UVA's campus shining in opposition to hate, directly opposing images of Friday night's rally that showed white nationalists marching with lit tiki torches. And unlike the weekend's demonstrations, the vigil remained peaceful.
The event was organized by students and teachers, but wasn't publicized on social media to help ensure everyone's safety. The UVA community spread the word mostly offline, through texts, emails, and word of mouth.
"I thought it was just about coming out and not being afraid," Charlottesville resident Ben Brinkop, 41, told The Washington Post. "It didn’t seem there was an overarching message, but it felt really good to reclaim this."
Despite the lack of publicity, a large crowd gathered to reclaim the UVA lawn as a welcoming place for everyone. The crowd fell quiet in honor of Heyer and the two Virginia state police officers who died while responding to the Charlottesville protests.
If you aren't in Charlottesville, but want to show support for those affected by the violence, you can donate to the victims and local organizations work defending the rights of people of color.