ATLANTIC CITY — More than 40 people stood on the steps of the city’s World War I memorial Sunday chanting, “No Nazis. No KKK. No hate in the USA!”
Local residents and weekend visitors, the majority from Atlantic County, gathered at the intersection of Ventnor and Albany avenues to condemn Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, following a fatal clash between neo-Nazi and white supremacy groups and counter-protesters.
Police charged James Alex Fields Jr. with second-degree murder and other counts after a car they say he was driving barreled through a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer, a Virginia paralegal, and wounding at least 19 others.
The FBI said in a statement late Saturday it is collecting facts and evidence in an ongoing civil-rights investigation into the deadly car crash.
“Hopefully people wake up from what happened yesterday,” said Amy Katz, 36, of Egg Harbor City. “This wasn’t a peaceful rally. People died, and it’s that feeling, after watching this on the news yesterday and crying, that we need to do something.”
Despite being more than 300 miles away, residents of the Atlantic County area said they felt the ripple effects of Friday night’s and Saturday’s events in Virginia. The group held up signs that read, “Hate has no home here,” and, “America is better than this.”
Betsy Erbaugh, of Northfield, a professor of sociology at Stockton University, held up a sign that read, “POTUS — Denounce white supremacy,” while her son Oscar, 10, held up a picture of a red NO sign crossing out a swastika, the sign Adolf Hitler used in Nazi Germany.
“They (kids) are young, but they get the general idea of why we’re out here,” Erbaugh said. “My son, he knows more, and we need to get the next generation out here to protest hate.”
Cars passing through the intersection slowed down and waved, honked their horns in support of the group’s messages and talked with protesters through their car windows.
Katz, who attended with her parents, Barbara and Jerry, of Cherry Hill, said people of all religions, ages and races joined to slam the presence of racism, white nationalism and intolerance in Virginia and in their own communities.
Barbara Katz said she had family members die in the Holocaust for being Jewish in the 1940s, and even what may seem like small numbers of white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups cannot be ignored.
“This right here, why my sign says, ‘Never Again,’ is because we can never let that happen again,” Barbara Katz said. “There has never been a more poignant opportunity in the U.S. for that message, and yesterday proved that they (white nationalists) are not just all talk. This has awakened us to the physical reality of hatred.”
Protesters plan to hold another event, which will include speakers, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 75 Pomona Road, Galloway Township.
Katz said the events in Charlottesville could have happened anywhere, as racist and anti-Semitic groups exist in all states, even though some are not as visible as others.
“Ignorance breeds hate,” she said. “I hope this wakes people up. We have to figure out how to teach people that we’re all the same. We’re all human.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.