With candles, not torches, Charlottesville takes back the light

University of Virginia holds vigil
University of Virginia holds vigil

    JUST WATCHED

    University of Virginia holds vigil

MUST WATCH

University of Virginia holds vigil 00:57

Story highlights

  • Students and residents took part in a peaceful candlelight vigil Wednesday
  • Last week, torch-bearing protesters were asked to leave after fights broke out

(CNN)In less than a week, the University of Virginia's campus served as a public forum for two very contrasting causes -- one fueled by anger, another by the desire to heal.

Students and Charlottesville residents marched peacefully through the campus Wednesday, carrying candles to mourn the loss of three people who died after a white nationalist rally turned violent over the weekend.
The symbolic center of the campus, the Rotunda and Lawn -- both designed by Thomas Jefferson -- turned into the center stage for two strikingly different gatherings.
    Torch-bearing protesters had marched Friday night to oppose Charlottesville's plan to remove relics of its Confederate past. Participants made their way to the statue of Jefferson at the center of the university where several fights with counterprotesters broke out. There were reports of several people being pepper sprayed.
    Attendees to Wednesday's vigil learned about it by word of mouth, phone calls, emails and text messages. They kept it off social media before it started to ensure the group's safety.
    White supremacy slogans such as "blood and soil" and anti-semitic chants like "Jews will not replace us" could be heard across the campus Friday night.
    Hundreds of attendees at Wednesday's vigil sang together "This Land is Your Land" and "We Shall Overcome," the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement.
    White nationalists, neo-Nazis and neo-Confederates walked across the university's grounds until police arrived and ruled it unlawful assembly.
    On Wednesday, someone recited Maya Angelou's poem "I Will Rise," and the crowd held a moment of silence for Heather Heyer, who was killed when a car plowed into a crowd protesting the "Unite the Right" rally and for the two Virginia State Police troopers who died in a helicopter crashed as they patrolled near the site of clashes between white nationalists and counterprotesters.
    Friday's march was described by local officials and university leaders as a "parade of hatred, bigotry and racism." Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics tweeted, "We need an exorcism on the Lawn."
    On Wednesday, attendees walked the same path that white nationalists took days before. They wanted to "take back the lawn."