Hundreds rallied in downtown Syracuse Sunday for a Black Lives Matter vigil, responding to the events that unfolded in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend.
A white nationalist rally turned deadly when a car drove into a crowd of protesters, killing one. Two Virginia state troopers were also killed in a helicopter crash on its way to the Charlottesville protest. Katie Feyh of Syracuse said she was at the Charlottesville protest Saturday.
“It was terrifying," Feyh said. "There were roving bands of fascist thugs in pickup trucks roaming around the city, picking off whoever they could. They beat up bystanders. They swarmed activists. They assaulted many.”
The demonstration in Syracuse was mostly peaceful with the exception of one young man who was ejected from the rally. Caleb Slater, 20, is the president of the Ithaca College Republicans who came to the protest to show solidarity, but said he was assaulted by three or four members of Antifa, an anti-fascist extremist group.
“They pushed me to the side of the streets," Slater said. "One of the women speaking earlier about equality, I told her I’m just here for equality, I’m just here to mourn and she told me to go away. I think that’s very hypocritical. I’m here to help with this fight. I don’t stand with the alt-right. Most conservatives don’t stand with the alt-right.”
Black Lives Matter protest organizer Herve Comeau said groups like Antifa are trying to fight fire with fire.
“We don’t welcome it our rallies, we don’t welcome it at a vigil, we don’t welcome it at any of our protests,” Comeau said.
Hasmik Djoulakian with the Syracuse Peace Council criticized President Donald Trump's response to Charlottesville.
"He said that violence took place on many sides, that's a tactic of oppressors all over the world to gaslight victims, to blame victims and say they are responsible for their own aggression," Djoulakian said.
Several of Syracuse’s mayoral candidates were at the Black Lives Matter rally in Syracuse.
Organizers also used the rally to sound off on a number of local issues including police brutality, juvenile solitary confinement and hate speech and death threats posted by anonymous commenters online.