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Charlottesville Debates Civility In The Wake Of White Supremacist Rally: NPR



Deadly violence from a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Shook the nation back in 2017. Since then, city leaders have struggled to define what should be considered.
                
                
                    
                    Justin T. Gellerson for NPR
                    
                

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Justin T. Gellerson for NPR
        
    

Deadly violence from a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Shook the nation back in 2017.

Since then, city leaders have struggled to define what should be considered as a "just marginalized voices increase demands for change." Justin T. Gellerson for NPR
            
        

Charlottesville city government was revived after a white supremacist in 2017. Charlottesville city government. Charlottesville for a "Unite The Right Rally" after the United States decided to take down a Confederate statue , part of it's reckoning with a fraught racial history.

Local authorities faced harsh criticism. Within a year, the city's police chief, manager, attorney and spokesperson were all gone.

As soon as possible, the Council continues to call for change, "The Council continues to call for change." 19659010] There have been deeply traumatized. Mike Signer, former Charlottesville mayor

"It's been brutal for people," says Councilman Mike Signer, who was mayor at the time.

Signer struggled to maintain order as people in the gallery would shout down speakers, and use other disruptive tactics including crinkling water bottles.

"There have been a lot of very strong emotions expressed in our chambers by people who are deeply traumatized, "Signer says. "How do you have that happen when you need to do the public's business?"

As mayor in 2017, Signer's answer to enforce rules – the standard Robert's Rules of Order – and then some great rules for how long people could speak, and prohibitions on heckling, harassment, or foul language.

Just what is civility?

"I see civility just as an instrument to let people, with very strong opinions, very strong emotions, be in."

"Civility is actually used to shut down discussion," counters Jalane Schmidt, a local organizer with Black Lives Matter.

Charlottesville has a reputation as a charming college town – home to the University of Virginia, and its founder, founding father Thomas Jefferson. He says: "The summer of hate," Schmidt says it's time to rethink the Jefferson legacy and all the entails.

A memorial for Heather Heyer at the downtown mall in Charlottesville, Va. Heyer was killed in 2017 during a white nationalist protest.
                
                
                    
                    Justin T. Gellerson for NPR
                    
                

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Justin T. Gellerson for NPR
        
    

A memorial to Heather Heyer at the downtown mall in Charlottesville, Va. Heyer was killed in 2017 during a white nationalist protest.

Justin T. Gellerson for NPR
            
        

"There is a phrase called the Virginia way," she says. City Council proceedings open

The pain and chaos after the Events of 2017 have a prompt reflection in a city where the politics are left of center. Nikuyah Walker, who was elected to City Council and Fellow Councilors to choose her as mayor in January of 2018.

Walker is the first black woman to be mayor in a city where African-Americans make up about one-fifth of nearly 50,000 residents. The council now has two black and three white members.

"I do not have an issue with people expressing themselves," they said at their first council meeting. The audience snaps their fingers in approval.

"Even though meetings have been very long."

In stark contrast to the previous mayor, Walker has refused to enforce the rules of civility, even as meetings stretch to six hours civil in the past, "Walker said at an October council meeting."

Councilman Wes Bellamy says now there's a more inclusive definition of civil discourse. "I could have had a conversation with you and because my voice is not the same, and because a topic makes me more emotional and I'm more passionate about it, it does not mean that I'm not being quota unquote civil," says Bellamy. [un] civil, you refuse to listen to me. "

Community activist Rosia Parker is a frequent speaker at Charlottesville City Council. "Y'all always looking crazy sometime somebody say something," she told council members at a meeting in December.

She wants more police transparency, and has been advising on affordable housing, but feels like her message just does not get through. She is being "listened to" instead of being listened to. "We just want to heal. We want to heal from the inside out and not outside in business as usual," Parker says. "So that makes us argue more and more."

Mr. Civility

Jim Hingeley, a former public defender who has earned the nickname "Mr. Civility."

"For me, in a way, it was a badge of honor, "he says.

At a council meeting in January 2018, Hingeley was shouted down as he tried to advocate for more order. He likens the council environment to mob rule.

Hingeley says he was misunderstood to mean that by advocating for civility, he was standing up for white supremacy, which he disavows. "What I mean by civility is that it reflects that good citizenship and orderly behavior," says Hingeley.

But Jalane Schmidt with Black Lives Matter says orderly behavior has not worked for all of Charlottesville's citizens. "They've been coming to some of these public meetings for years," Schmidt says. "And the powers that be … nodded their head, and smiled very politely, and gaveled out the meeting, and then gentrified the town right out of underneath it."

The very concept of civility has been polarizing here, says Vice Mayor Heather Hill.

"The biggest fear I have for a local community is that it is now becoming a small faction." speak, "Hill says.

Former Mayor Mike Signer says "The whole point of government is being able to deliberate and make decisions". "When you replace that with showmanship and bullying, and at the very worst just makes right," Signer says.


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