Chattanooga religious leaders witness violence at Charlottesville white nationalist rally

Co-Director of Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center Beth Foster started her day with a prayer service at the First Baptist Church in Charlottesville, but she says violence broke out shortly after. (Image: Beth Foster)

Members of the local church, Mercy Junction reflect on their experience in Charlottesville, Va. one week after the deadly protests.

Original Story:

Members of several Chattanooga churches and faith groups were in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday as violence erupted at a white nationalist rally, called "Unite the Right."

Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center sent five people, who witnessed violence at the rally.

"It was really ugly throughout the day and it just had violence all around it from the beginning," said Beth Foster, Co-Director of Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center.

NewsChannel 9 video chatted with Foster at a cafe in Charlottesville. While we talked, she was ordered inside, because a group of protesters started approaching her location.

"Hundreds and hundreds of people with weapons and shields shouting hateful things," said Foster, as she described what she saw throughout the day.

Police say they suspect James Alex Fields, Jr. drove into a crowd of counter protesters, killing one person. Foster says she tried to clear the streets so ambulances could get through after it happened.

"One of the militia members was in the street and trying to blame those who were hurt in what had happened," said Foster. "And I said no, this was not the cause of people blocking the street. This was caused by white supremacy."

Foster says she and the other members of Mercy Junction are in Charlottesville to send the message that people need to vacate that ideology.

"The first step we have to take in fixing things is acknowledge that this is a country built on white supremacy," said Foster. "And to start addressing it everywhere that it exists in ourselves, in our systems and our history."

The Mercy Junction members plan to return to Chattanooga Sunday night, where Foster says they'll continue to spread acceptance.

"The important thing to me being here is to be here as a white person, and to say that white people need to get into this fight," said Foster. "That we have an obligation to stand against white supremacy and we need to be present and let them know that there is not a safe place for them to spout their ideology," said Foster.

A Chattanooga pastor says she, too was at the rally and in the middle of all the chaos this afternoon. Associate Pastor Anna Golladay serves at the St. Elmo United Methodist Church.

She says and about 40 other clergy members linked arms, standing face-to-face with the protesters for about two hours.

We knew when we left this morning, left the church where we had worshiped, that there were three things that could happen to us today," said Anna Golladay. "The most minor being arrest. The second being injury. The third being death. And death was a very real possibility."

Golladay says she plans to speak about her experience at Sunday services.

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