Alderman library at the University of Virginia.

Charlottesville: Torches into birdhouses

Mike Selby

It was last August when a group of marchers descended upon the University of Virginia campus, located in the heart of Charlottesville.

Protesting the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue, these ‘Unite the Right’ protesters were carrying torches and chanting “Jews will not replace us” (inexplicably mixing up causes).

These would be terrorists were met by Thomas McGill, a librarian from the university’s law library.

A protester swung his torch across McGill’s neck, knocking him down and causing him to have a stroke. A dean and two professors dragged him out of the crowd, which was now assaulting a large crowd of university students.

Riots quickly broke out across the town of Charlottesville, leaving three people dead and dozens more severely injured. This rally of hate was organized by Jason Kessler, a 34-year-old white nationalist who was back at the University’s law library just last month.

Kessler entered the library on the afternoon of April 18, 2018, and sat down at a computer. When other library users recognized him, they quickly made makeshift signs reading “murderer” and “blood on your hands” to hold up.

One law professor — who has been the target of Kessler’s verbal and online hate outside of the campus — exited the library, worried that his presence would set Kessler off. He needn’t have worried; Kessler went off anyhow.

Another professor approached Kessler and asked him to leave. After claiming he was only here to do legal research, Kessler began to yell that Jews and women didn’t belong at the law school. The campus police finally arrived and escorted him off of university property.

Kessler arrived again the following week, and was receiving help from a reference librarian who had no idea who he was (Kessler does have a lawsuit against the city of Charlottesville, who denied him a parade permit to celebrate the riot of the last August). He was recognized soon enough, and was soon once again yelling about any and every minority. The police once again escorted him out.

Administrators of the law library held a mini town-hall to ask the students how they felt about Kessler’s being on campus, and to let them know the university unequivocally supports them. Students felt “embarrassed,” “alienated,” “unsafe” “paralyzed,” and “devalued.” Many were worried about violence occurring; both students and faculty cried. Then they talked about final exams that Kessler interrupted, and — as future lawyers—if there anything legal they could do.

There certainly was. Kessler was legally trespassed from all University grounds, “due to multiple reports from students that Mr. Kessler threatened them, targeted them through cyber-bullying and cyber-harassment, and targeted them based on protected characteristics.”

And, even in the face of all the trauma he caused, they added “exception granted for emergency care at the University Medical Center.” Compassion was to be their final act against him.

Future U of VA students have supported them as well. The students from Charlottesville’s Murray High School made good use from all the torches left lying around last August. They made birdhouses out of them, with their teachers stressing that “each shelter is unique; different birds require different kinds of habitats to thrive.”

The students painted “humans are born to love” on the side of the houses — an amazing tribute born from a city that became a hashtag.

Mike Selby is Information Services Librarian at the Cranbrook Public Library

Just Posted

Unions reject CP Rail contract offers

Both meeting Friday to determine next steps; 72 hours notice required before strike action.

VIDEO: College of the Rockies expands early childhood education

Province funds $130,000 that will double capacity of ECE program

Cranbrook writer wins national book prize

Full Curl by Dave Butler has won the 2018 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Crime Novel.

Some light at the end of the tunnel for driver examiner shortage

As Sparwood student readies petition, ICBC has two new examiners in training

Moving towards a spectacular Sam Steele Days

Sam Steele Society has made some adjustments to enhance the festival including a parade route change

Trans Mountain pipeline: How we got here

A look at the Kinder Morgan expansion, decades in the making

Suspected scammer attempts to use Black Press newspaper to dupe woman

Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre offers tips after Langley resident received suspicious call

Vote points to abortion being legalized in Ireland

Voters asked whether to keep or repeal Eighth Amendment to Roman Catholic Ireland’s Constitution

COLUMN: Women’s breasts really aren’t that big a deal

A follow on some Princeton, B.C., students gained considerable exposure when they dropped their bras

Canadian soccer officials talk up World Cup bid at Champions League final

Current bid calls for 2026 World Cup games to be staged in the U.S., Canada and Mexico

B.C.’s devastating 2017 wildfire season revisited in new book

British Columbia Burning written by CBC journalist Bethany Lindsay

B.C. RCMP swoop in to save injured eagle

An eagle with a broken wing now in a recovery facility after RCMP rescue near Bella Coola

Bug spray 101: Health Canada wants you to stay bite free

Health Canada is reminding Canadians to use bug spray and other insect repellents safely

Most Read