Residents sound off at Department of Justice forum in Charlottesville

Residents sound off at Department of Justice forum in Charlottesville

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (WWBT) - A community conversation prompted by the U.S. Department of Justice brought out a huge crowd in Charlottesville on Sunday afternoon.

Neighbors packed Charlottesville High School to discuss the fallout from this month's white nationalist rally and how they can work together to overcome hate.

The Department of Justice got an earful from a community seeking to turn the page and get past the chaos.

"How do the men of color and women of color and children of color feel as safe and protected in this community as I do with my children?" a woman asked the crowd.

"When are we going to call terrorists terrorists? Do you have to be black or Muslim to be called a terrorist?" another chimed in.

"I'd like to see us become an us, not a them and you," one man said on the microphone.

The majority of those in attendance are fed up with racial injustice and the dark cloud left on Charlottesville following this month's Unite the Right rally.

"You can look in this room and see. Where are the black people? Where are the Latinos? Where are the Muslims? We've been silenced through this summer of hate. We've been told to pray. We've been told to leave. We've been told to close our eyes but we haven't been told that we're protected," one of the women said.

"What I would love to do is peel my privilege away so that everyone is safe. I want to know how do we do that?" another added.

"What has been made clear to me throughout my time here is that standing still is not an option, that the community wants to move forward," said Suzanne Buchanan with the Justice Department.

But some questioned whether having the federal agency here would do any good.

"With all due respect to you and your colleagues who have come to visit us, because of who you work for, we don't trust you. We don't trust your boss," a man told Buchanan.

Charlottesville leaders say they requested the DOJ's presence to help get past the pain.

"We are not defined by what happened a few weeks ago. We are defined by this community and this is a start …This is our Charlottesville," said Charlottesville's Human Rights Manager Charlene Green.

The DOJ made it clear it's not here to investigate or take any legal action, but to simply help begin the process of healing the wounds.

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