Charlottesville activist continues to push for equality

'You can teach many things, but you can't teach morality'

By Jessica Jewell - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

CHARLLOTESVILLE, Va. - People in Charlottesville are bracing for the chance of more violence this weekend.

Since last year's deadly march, many community activists have stepped up to push for equality. 

"No one could've expected what we experienced last year," said Don Gathers, a community activist.

The eyes of the world focused on Charlottesville when a man plowed his car into a crowd, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. 

"(We) saw things that no one should see unless you've landed right in a hot zone in a war somewhere," said Gathers.

It all started with debates over the city's Confederate monuments and came to a head with the Unite the Right rally. 

As the one-year anniversary approaches, local activists explain what's changed since last year's rally.

"Probably nothing and everything," said Gathers.

Gathers was on the front lines that day. 

"It pulled the scab off a wound that had long since been centered here in Charlottesville, and it revealed things that people didn't want to deal with," said Gathers. "The issue of race has long been a problem here that folks have not wanted to deal with, and really, in many ways, never had to deal with, until that fateful weekend last year."

Since then, there have been several changes; notably, to people in power. 

"At the leadership level, a lot has changed. I think the conversation has changed with our community. People want to get to the root causes. People want to talk about our history in a different way," said Gathers. "So, whether it's a history of white supremacy, or how we design and name what's in our downtown parks -- whether it's affordable housing or economic justice, racial justice -- those things are all front and center at most community conversations now."

Gathers encourages those conversations to continue, but said it will take a lot more to get to the root of these issues. 

"You can teach many things, but you can't teach morality and if someone's moral compass is broken, I don't know how you fix that," said Gathers.

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