Hundreds March Through University of Virginia to Protest Hate Groups

Image: UVA Vigil
People gather at the University of Virginia for a vigil on August 16, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia.Instagram/1nsubordinate

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By Daniel Arkin

Carrying lit candles and singing songs of peace, hundreds of people massed on the University of Virginia campus on Wednesday night in a resounding rebuke of the white nationalist violence that rocked Charlottesville last weekend.

Live footage from the vigil showed a sea of flickering candles and glow sticks waving in the night sky as students, locals and activists sang songs like the "This Little Light of Mine" and "We Shall Overcome."

"We hope that you will carry peace in your hearts," an event organizer said to applause and loud chants of "Love wins!"

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Images and video clips form the gathering circulated on social media, where supporters praised the demonstrators for promoting an inclusive message.

"There's a crowd of thousands holding a candlelight vigil at UVA in #Charlottesville right now," Baron Schwartz, a local tech businessman, tweeted. "Signs like DEFEND DIVERSITY. All races, ages."

Hundreds could be seen marching up the Lawn, the grassy court in the center of campus, and around the Rotunda, a building designed to look like the Pantheon in Rome, before coming to a stop at a statue of Thomas Jefferson, who founded the school.

Related: White Nationalists Praise Trump as ‘Most Honest President’ Since Washington

That path appeared to be the very route followed by the torch-bearing white nationalists who descended on the area last Friday night.

"We are going to be stronger than ever, and I think that's exactly what this represents. This is replacing that horrific image from last weekend with this image. This is one of love," Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer told NBC affiliate WVIR.

The vigil began hours after a memorial for Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman who was killed Saturday when a car rammed into a crowd during the "Unite the Right" white nationalist rally.

At the memorial, Heyer's mother, Susan Bro, gave an emotional recounting of her daughter's life and took aim at the white nationalists.

"They tried to kill my child to shut her up," Bro said. "Well, guess what? You just magnified her."