Charlottesville activist group “Solidarity Cville” and U.Va. Students United held a small protest Sunday night immediately following the Concert for Charlottesville as demonstrators held signs which spelled out “No unity without justice” outside of Gibbons dormitory at the University.
Members of boths groups are also believed to be responsible for distributing pamphlets to concert goers after the event which included the same content as displayed in the Solidarity Cville’s video statement, posted on the group’s website Sunday.
Solidarity Cville has been heavily involved with activism relating to the white supremacist events in Charlottesville throughout the summer and presented a list of demands to Mayor Mike Signer promoting racial equality.
The concert was organized by the Charlottesville-bred Dave Matthews Band as a benefit event to promote healing and unity within the city and University community after the violent events of Aug. 11 and 12. An estimated 50,000 plus people attended the concert and there were 177,000 requests to obtain tickets for the event, according to the University Board of Visitors.
The proceeds, raised through donations to the Concert for Charlottesville fund, were managed by the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation and are to benefit “victims of the events of August 11 and 12 and their families, first responders, and organizations devoted to the promotion of healing, unity and justice in the Charlottesville community and nationally,” according to the organization’s website.
In the video, an unnamed member of Solidarity Cville rejects the “false unity” of the concert and criticizes various city and University officials of inaction after the white supremacist events of this summer.
“The ‘Concert for Charlottesville’ is a show of false unity,” the member said. “Community healing shouldn’t be led by those who failed the community — Mayor Mike Signer, the City Council, Chief Al Thomas, U.Va. President Teresa Sullivan and many others.”
Solidarity Cville also accused both the city and University of obscuring the problem of white supremacy in the community with the use of unifying social media campaigns and the concert in general.
“To cover up long-standing, historical issues of white supremacy with hashtags and concerts is not a true and inclusive unity,” the member said. “To support city officials and university presidents over those who actually show up to defend their community is not a true and inclusive unity.”
“The Unity concert is, let’s be real, a fundraising push,” the member added. “Are these funds going to Black communities targeted by white supremacist terror? Are these funds going to build public housing for low-income people?”
Maria DeHart — a fourth-year College student and U.Va. Students United activist — criticized the concert for failing to acknowledge the racial inequality the City of Charlottesville and the University will continue to face after the event.
“This concert should not be what we remember about August 12, it should be that Charlottesville has problems that need to be addressed including public housing, police brutality and other forms of racial violence in Charlottesville,” DeHart said. “The concert sort of provided a distraction for people to focus on the side of Charlottesville that is white liberalism … and not keep talking and keep being critical about what we need to do move forward.”
DeHart also questioned whether many of the concert's attendees recognized the magnitude of the events of Aug. 12.
“I think that a lot of students who went … Have the idea that what happened on August 12 is not Charlottesville and that racism does not live here,” DeHart said. “I think you could go to the concert and be more critical than that and sort of acknowledge that.”
DeHart also called upon the Council and University to take more concrete steps to address racial inequality in the local community.
“A better alternative [to the concert] would be putting more money into housing equality and housing opportunities and getting more people above the poverty line and above all U.Va. paying its employees a living wage,” DeHart said.
DeHart finished by emphasizing that attendees of the concert should continue to think about the lasting implications of racial inequality after the concert.
“Are you [Concert attendees] thinking about this?” she said. “Are you doing what you can to actually be aware of these issues and address them and think about how you stand in this community? And not just enjoying this fun concert, wearing the shirt and pretending like everything is fine but actually being critical and aware.”
In response to the message of the concert and the demonstrations afterward, a number of University students and organizations shared their views with The Cavalier Daily.
Akash Raje, a third-year College student and Diversity and Outreach Chair of the Inter-Fraternity Council, said he admired the solidarity which he believed the concert promoted but also acknowledged the validity of the demonstration.
“I felt very moved to see such a successful event come together in a month's time,” Raje said. “There certainly was an intentionality to the concert in communicating a message of solidarity and activism. We danced together in the stands and became friends with people who would have otherwise been complete strangers to us. This is the power of music — cultivating an inextricable bond between people through love.”
Despite being a fan of the concert, Raje said he also found the protest to be valuable.
“However, I do not completely disagree with those who argued for ‘false unity,’ Raje said. “In fact, I thank them for doing what they did because they hold everyone accountable. When people walked out of the stadium, we realized that we were still in Charlottesville, and in the United States, where these issues remain relevant, and without action, we really cannot uphold the message of the music.”
Virginia Chambers, a second-year College student and University Democrats Communications Coordinator, said the University Democrats appreciated the strength and unity displayed by the University and Charlottesville communities at the concert but said the “hard work of racial and political reconciliation is far from over.”
“We were pleased to see University students and members of the community physically come together for a peaceful, positive concert,” Chambers said. “It is important to note, however, that yesterday's concert was largely symbolic. As lovely as it was, it did not complete the work that must take place for Charlottesville to heal,” Chambers said. “The concert was simply a step in the community's journey to a more just, inclusive society.”
Adam Kimelman, a third-year College student and chair of the College Republicans, said they viewed the concert as a starting point for the University and City communities to heal and rejected the notion of the event as a “false unity.”
"We are very happy that the Dave Matthews Band and so many other talented artists were willing to come and have a charity concert for Charlottesville,” Kimelman said. “While we [College Republicans] realize there is more to be done, we do not think this was a show of false unity as the counter protestors apparently claimed. We realize that this concert didn't solve racial problems in Charlottesville, but it did allow for the city and U.Va. to unify and start to heal."
University spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn offered the following statement on the concert and protest after The Cavalier Daily reached out to President Teresa Sullivan.
“It was a fantastic evening for the concert, and it provided our community an opportunity to come together in a wonderful sign of unity and mutual respect.”