Local activist reflects on the events on Aug. 11, 2017

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Local activist Don Gathers reflected on the events of August 11, 2017 when Neo-Nazis went to the University of Virginia Rotunda.

He was across the street at St. Paul Memorial Church for a service.

"We were just singing praises as we were trying to unite the community in light of what we feared to come the next day," said Gathers.

Gathers and fellow worshippers knew Neo-Nazis were planning something in the city that day, but they did not expect them to do anything close to the church.

"Our intelligence had told us that it was planned for Market Street Park, but when they found out we were here holding a worship service, they moved their location here," he said.

Gathers said he had never seen so much hatred in the city before that day.

"There were hundreds of Neo-Nazis marching across the lawn with their tiki torches, with their chants 'Blood and Soil' and 'Jews Will Not Replace Us,'" he said.

It's an image that Gathers still remembers to this day and he has a hard time wrapping his mind about those events.

"It's just hard to believe that on Charlottesville and Jefferson's hallowed ground that sort of thing had happened," he said. "I wish that we could say we were surprised that it happened. It's hard to believe that at that point it was 2017 and we're still dealing with that same mindset."

Gathers believes the city has made strides to change over the last two years, but he still thinks there are racial issues in Charlottesville.

"There's a huge racial rift in the community that people don't want to embrace or understand that exists," he said. "It exists and it manifests itself in so many different ways."

He wants people to stay vigilant and not grow complacent with where we are in society.

"Because it happened that one time, it most certainly could happen again," Gathers said. "The fear is that we are not past this yet. We still have many issues to deal with that are race-based and race-related."

Gathers believes prayer, voting and conversation will lead to the city moving past racial issues.

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