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Hundreds gather peacefully at Virginia university campus where white nationalists marched with torches

Marchers peacefully assembled in the same place where hundreds of torch-carrying white nationalists marched Friday, when several fights broke out

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 August, 2017, 12:36pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 August, 2017, 12:36pm

Hundreds of people marched with lit candles across the University of Virginia campus Wednesday night in a contrasting demonstration from the torchlight white nationalist parade last Friday night.

Students and residents gathered at the Rotunda at the University of Virginia campus carrying candles and glow sticks to sing together for a vigil.

They sang patriotic songs such as God Bless America and the Star-Spangled Banner before invoking in unison the civil rights era anthem We Shall Overcome.

The vigil happened hours after state and national leaders spoke at a memorial for Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman was killed when a vehicle careened through a crowd on a Charlottesville street Saturday injuring 19 other people.

Two Virginia state troopers also died in the crash of their helicopter, which was monitoring the rally.

As they stood on the steps of the Rotunda students there led the chorus as the crowd on the central grounds followed singing “don’t let hatred blow it out,” an altered verse to the old gospel tune, This little light of mine.

The crowd thinned out as the night wore on, but those who came said they heard about the gathering the old-fashioned way.

“They tried to keep things off social media,” said Charlottesville resident Santiago Padrón.

“I got like four text messages about it.”

Cara Warren, who was with Padrón, said they brought their own candles for themselves and to share but they were people handing out LED lights to the crowd.

The seemingly spontaneous smattering of groups who showed for the vigil also received half sheets of paper with the lyrics to various songs to sing along.

Watch: Friday march by white nationalists turns violent

CNN aired live video of a sea of candlelight unfolded across the campus as the crowd headed to the school’s rotunda and the statue of the school’s founder Thomas Jefferson where days before white nationalists and counter protesters clashed.

Reporters from The Daily Progress newspaper tweeted images and videos of Wednesday night’s scene which included the crowd singing Lean on Me and This Little Light of Mine.

As the crowd dispersed they sang the university song and headed home.

Additional reporting by Associated Press