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Charlottesville Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy Reacts To White Nationalist Rally


Yesterday, we invited Wes Bellamy on the program. He is the vice-mayor of Charlottesville. Unfortunately, we ran out of time while speaking to him live, and we wanted to bring him back to finish our conversation and to check back in to see what's happening in Charlottesville. Vice-Mayor Bellamy, thank you for coming back to speak with us.

WES BELLAMY: Hello. Thank you so much for having me.

SMITH: Sorry again for having to cut things short yesterday.

BELLAMY: It's OK. I promise. It's all right.

SMITH: Well, part of the reason that we wanted to talk with you again is that yesterday, you'd started to talk to us about what you think is at the heart of the clashes in Charlottesville. I had mentioned that the protests were sparked by the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in the center of the city. And you said, no, this is not about the statue, it's rooted in something much deeper. Talk to me about that.

BELLAMY: Yes. Yeah. Honestly, I don't think it's about the statue. This is about white supremacy. And this is about the notion of different individuals of the majority race. And they believe that they are superior to anyone who is not of the, quote, unquote, "white pure race." They want to try and invoke fear. And that's been their MO ever since, in my opinion. So again, this is not just about a statue. I also would like to add to the point that when we talk about the city of Charlottesville, again, this is a city that I absolutely love, but let's not act as if this city does not have a history.

This is the same city that chose to close down the schools, opposed to integrating them. This is a city in which literally tore down and bulldozed an entire African-American community, Vinegar Hill. So, I mean, we've had issues here for a very long time. And now that it's coming to the surface, the majority, like these white supremacy groups, feel as if they can be emboldened. And They're using 45, their president, as well as the statue issue to spew their hate.

SMITH: At the same time, yesterday, you said about your city, this is not who Charlottesville is. This is not who we are. How do you reconcile those two things, both this long history of tension but the events that we've all been seeing on television, this not reflecting your city?

BELLAMY: Yeah, the city that I've come to love because I think we've made a lot of strides. Now, again, we still have a long way to go. But the people who are here now in the year 2017, in my opinion, for the most part, are individuals who want to push for racial equity in terms of affordable housing, our school system, the city budget, so on and so forth. I think that these individuals who have come here to try and put a blemish on our community do not define, nor represent the city.

When I think of Charlottesville, again, we do have a history. But personally, I know that this is a city that during my darkest times when I felt like kind of just - man, I don't know what's going to happen. This is a city of black people, white people, young people, old people, different denominations who all rallied around me and told me, hey, it's going to be OK. This has been a city that's helped me grow. The city and the people that I know are loving, caring, resilient people. And we will be stronger after this and because of this.

SMITH: How does Charlottesville move forward from here? How does the city start to heal from this?

BELLAMY: We do so like we have always done so, with resiliency, with tenacity and doing so together. There's going to be a community vigil tonight to celebrate the life of the young woman who lost her life. And I fully expect the entire city to come out. We will lock arms.

Tomorrow will be August 14, rallying around and making sure that we tell our brothers and sisters from different hues and persuasions that we love each other. And that's what we're going to do. If we cannot rally around each other and stand together after an incident like this, I don't know what it's going to take. But again, the Charlottesville that I know is a place that will rally around each other. And we are going to love each other. And we will be stronger because of it.

SMITH: Wes Bellamy is the vice-mayor of Charlottesville, Va. Mr. Vice-Mayor, thank you so much for coming back and talking with us again.

BELLAMY: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.