Katy Brandt and William Clarke
DescriptionBill (72) talks to Katy (29) about being volunteer coordinators at First United Methodist Church the day of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in the summer of 2017.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Katy Brandt
- William Clarke
Recording LocationFirst United Methodist Church
Partnership TypeFee for Service
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00:01 Well, my name is Bill Clark and I am a member First United Methodist Church here in Charlottesville. I've lived here in Charlottesville for about 40 years. I came here after doing a fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis and came here as an assistant professor of Pediatrics. I stayed on the faculty for the next to 35 years. Today is February 16th, and we are located today at First United Methodist Church, and I'm here to talk with Mike O coordinator of volunteers for the August 12th.
00:49 And I am Katy Brandt and I'm also a member of First United Methodist Church in Charlottesville. I'm 29 years old. I moved to Charlottesville about three and a half years ago from Iowa for job and became involved with the church about three years ago. I started to get involved in some of our racial justice social activist Ministry earlier in 2017. And then became as Bill said one of the co-directors of volunteers on the day of August 12th here in Charlottesville, Virginia. That was really some day was we had planned for the day we knew it was coming we plan for it for for several months, but we had so many meetings to go to and and so much other work buying things. We didn't know how many people were going to be here we did.
01:49 Know what time they would come we didn't know if there was going to be violence or not violence. We really just had no idea what was going to happen. We also participated in some non-violent resistance training something I never dreamed I would be doing yeah, I remember going to those meetings and at one point pretending that we're having pepper spray sprayed at us and having to roll over on the ground and pricing dodging bullet shots and all kinds of things that I didn't expect. I was actually thinking back that last meeting we went to and you and I weren't even there for the main part of it, but we got the call to come at the end and I think that was the main time that it hit me kind of what was coming. I don't know why we had talked about it and I didn't know much about these groups and I just remember thinking through all the logistics emails about where we going to park and what time to come and who's going to make coffee and all these things and then we got there and passed or failed looking at us and saying if someone lets off a bomb, what are we going to do?
02:50 And I just had that when it just became real to me where you expecting that maybe I just should have been better prepared at that point. But I really didn't know what to expect. I do know that and I realized at the time that our church really was part of emancipation park. It was like the park was the front yard of the church and all those activities were going on right smack across the street and there was no way that we could not be involved we had to be involved and I think that being involved by providing us a safe space for people was one of the most important things we could do.
03:36 Yeah, I think so too. I just remember all those people coming up even before we were officially open that day and I just felt so awful. We just couldn't let everyone in initially cuz we were still kind of getting over ducks in a row letting the medic set up with people set up trying to figure out where the clergy were going to go and people are trying to use the bathroom and nothing else is open. I'm having to send them to CVS, which I don't even know what CVS look like that except for the paper and there they were all the state troopers in the SWAT team surrounding really surrounding the church. We were somewhat of almost imprisoned where we were we found out we couldn't use the front doors that all we had to use the side doors.
04:18 Yeah, and his makeshift tables that we set up as like entrance station to check people in and the checkpoints in and out as people came in the building. We really had no idea of you know of the level of danger that was going to occur during that day and to some extent no amount of preparation could have prepared us for what happened that day. Yeah. I remember telling friends that I was surprised that only one person was killed which the well one person directly involved in the protests which sound so terrible, but it just immediately I think I was 10 a.m. When that scuffle broke out right outside the parking lot and filtering on telling me like put the building on lockdown and I'd come in and I think you were probably at the front of the building and I go down and we didn't the speaker didn't broadcast in the fellowship hall and I'm just having to yell like every clergy needs to go to the front of the building and
05:18 Are confused and as they go upstairs balance and ever and stop and start saying the Lord's Prayer and I was thinking myself it's 10 a.m. And people are already dying what's happening and then I came outside. I realized that things are just escalated a little bad. But yeah, it was terrifying it was terrifying and I you know, I started out the day not really being afraid really thinking okay. This is something we have to do. We had organised 24 volunteers, I think and the way that you know, they their age is cover the whole gamut my mid-twenties up to mid-seventies and everyone was given an assignment and course they get all that fell apart later on in the morning and I thought we could do this all prepared by the parking lot was okay and we would just go ahead and do things and then I remember that for scuffle out the list Street beside the church.
06:18 And I thought these people are really serious.
06:21 And I thought to myself. What did you really think? What did you really think? Didn't you see them marching they were marching with with clubs and helmets and Shields and guns. These weren't people coming for a peaceful anyting these people were coming for a fight and then you down and that's really when when it really don don me that this was something that was really serious and that really was dangerous. I just remembered I feel like everything just continue to escalate and at one point they have the helicopters flying around and then they weren't playing around anymore and everyone is like was it a good thing or bad thing that they're not flying over us anymore? And it's just like we're in a war zone.
07:11 Which is crazy to think about but it's like we've been invaded and yeah, like you had talked about the police surrounding us and state troopers all around the building and I was very eerie. I didn't think the day would ever end and we were here from what about 6:30 in the morning till 7:30 in the evening until things quieted down hide it it seemed like an eternity.
07:39 And even at that when we left not knowing if they were going to come back if they are going to terrorize downtown. I mean at one point we got some message that they put on social media saying they're going to come torch the Jews at 3 p.m. And burn down the synagogue and what are we supposed to do with that? We can't stop them all but going to try and burn down a building. So and I think that it's important for us to remember Heather heyer and her story in and how someone and had found her cell phone in the parking lot and and we didn't know whose cell phone it was it rang and somebody answered and and I'm a man on the phone said he was looking for his sister and we said what we didn't know who that was but we we keep the phone here at the church that she could come and get it and then was bad for 15 or 20 minutes later that that he called back and said that his
08:39 His sister had been murdered run over by the assailant down on the downtown mall.
08:49 To some extent I had to feel
08:55 Please that she had come to our church that she had come to a a place that have been set aside to meditate and for prayer and for refreshment in and to sort of get yourself together.
09:13 Yeah, it was nice to know that we are one of the last places she was but also hard to think about that and I was at the door all day long and I can't say that I remember seeing her face specifically that day but knowing that I was seeing every single person that came in and outs at one point we interacted and yeah, so I do I feel good about this the fact that she was able to be here with us, but I was ended in tragedy it certainly was and you know, I don't think that I think that our community really hasn't gotten over that I think we're still sort of in a in a grieving morning process. Don't you definitely think so, I think we're grieving and mourning and also kind of on high alert all the time every time I got a call from Phil you would think of your pastors calling you it should be something somewhat benign, but I'm always afraid that it's like a call to go to the park because white supremacists are assembling and even on New Year's Eve. He was calling and saying they're they're going to come tonight can anyone be available and it's just it's hard to feel like you have to be in like constant.
10:13 The constant vigilance in case you have to defend your city again, and it's sad it is really like the August 12th really has intended for me. It's been it's really part of the Continuum that really will take a long while I think that the community's response has been.
10:34 Somewhat disappointing. I mean sort of like a lot of people are trying to point their fingers at other people for why there was violence and and you know, how we might have done things differently and until we get over that I don't see a lot of healing happening. I agree and I think there's been an attempt at trying to change things and obviously our church has been doing a lot of work with racial Injustice and trying to right some of those wrongs but it just as such a almost insurmountable problem that it just becomes overwhelming until you've got those people who we are still trying to work things out and the other people I feel like I've done that pointed fingers and said that all those people aren't from here so they don't represent Charlottesville, but there's a chance I could be made here to that would help a lot Shirley Charlottesville went from being a quiet academic little Community to being what I
11:33 Call the next Selma I think that wouldn't you know, we certainly read about Charlottesville in the paper and in Charlottesville on TV all the time and people in Congress are talking about loss of the Charlottsville won't happen again and become internationally known last summer. I was Adam a meeting in in Lithuania ball places, and I mentioned that I was from Charlottesville in the next thing. I knew I was called upon to get up in front of this audience and describe what I had Donna on August 12th, and what happened and why it happened.
12:14 I had several experiences that were similar to that on some Travel Tours vacation tours where I would sit down with a group they would say well, where are you from? I would say to Charlottesville, Virginia.
12:29 Well, I wasn't were you taking part in any of those events on that day. And what did you do? And what was it like and so for me? It's like it it just continues doesn't seem like it's going to end. Yeah, I agree. That's really interesting to hear those other people's perspectives. I went back to Iowa recently. And one of my friends who knew that I've been involved asked me unless you phrase I thought was so interesting and she said have they cleaned up all the damage from the rally and I said to her, you know there really wasn't much physical damage. It's been a lot of emotional damage and yeah, we're working on changing a lot of things but it's so interesting to hear perspective even from within the country that people just don't understand what happened or what went on and for me to tell them I said people our age that you and I could have gone to school with like very clean cut look like normal guys marching on the street chasing blood and soil carrying assault rifles.
13:28 This is not something you imagine. Whatever happened.
13:32 So do you think that anything good came out of August 12th for a lot of people I've noticed even my peers just being more involved than anyone ever has before weather be in politics or an education are just just getting out there and being involved which I think is great myself included. I've always volunteered and done different things. But I definitely am much more passionate about this cause and I found myself being more and more involved, I guess to me. That's the main good thing that came out of it. What do you think?
14:10 Well, I I think about it on several levels Katie the 1st is the community and and I think that the awareness that something like this could happen in a small quiet.
14:24 Community that really didn't pay very much attention to racial Injustice and all of a sudden boom. Racial Injustice is it has raised its ugly head but it was always here was always here, but we weren't aware of what was happening and to a large extent what happened on August 12th has made an awful lot of people a lot more aware of the undercurrents in our community that are not healthy.
14:59 Within the church. I have to say that.
15:05 Although there were people who would just have the suit would would have just rather. We had not done anything that we had closed the doors and pretended it wasn't happening.
15:18 There are other people in within the church for him. There was the same kind of Awakening and I saw this amongst the volunteers for me. It was a day of
15:33 I must have Mountaintop experience. It was here. We are in the church.
15:40 Working with the stranger treating The Stranger giving food to the hungry giving drink to the to the Thirsty it was
15:50 Church being the church. I've been a member of this church for 40 years. Nothing like that had ever occurred at this church. We did events for the community that picnic here for a picnic there or something like that and invited people to come to worship. But we never reached out and said come here. We will provide a safe place for you. And that's that's an amazing thing. I agree and I'm glad that it reached as far as the dead. I mean, I think it was advertised a little bit like on the clergy Collective website or a few places that I do activists or protesters who were looking could find that this would be one of the buildings that was open that day but to have people and we got how many letters saying I don't know about coming to church. So thank you for letting me in and making me feel welcome on this day when there's people spewing hate everywhere around me, but I could come here and there were people here from all over the country that day.
16:50 Someone asked me if I knew a street named in it. And actually I did and this lady said she was staying with some people who lived on this street and ask for a ride home and I took her for a ride home and turned out that she was a pastor in 1/4 of a church in Indiana and they had paid her way to come to Charlottesville to participate in non-violent resistance to the brown light that happened there were so many examples of that people who you didn't really expect to be here being here and showing support and then afterwards she said when we got letters from people from all over the country, we got a we got an envelope full of drawings from children in a church in Texas me a really really very very touching.
17:50 Tributes to what we were doing that day. I have to feel good about what we did that day. And I would do it again in a minute. I can't imagine being anywhere else and even physically that day being anywhere else. I'm at the end of the day someone saying you forgot to put on your sunscreen or you forgot to reapply had two such a farmer's tan from just being out in the sun, but I wasn't about to let anyone come through the door that I hadn't looked at and checked and vetted and so yeah, I can't imagine I would for sure do it again. I hope we never have to do it again while you were on the front lines you very very definitely were on the front lines cuz we had to check IDs and backpacks and what else what else did you have to do? We use a metal detector, which I never thought we'd have to use a metal detector for people coming into a church. And that is another striking thing that I tell people about a lot is all these kids were coming in or people that had met
18:50 Makeshift weapons and shield and were so polite and compliant when they come in and say, you know, can I come into the air conditioning? Can I use the restroom? Of course, you have to leave your weapon here. And so Kyle had a box of pocket knives and then they come back out of bed. And he say Okay, describe yours if he's like the black one with the little bucket on his dick in the box and find it for them and like stay safe carry on with your day. And it's just surreal that that was what was happening. But yeah, I feel good about the fact that everyone who was supposed to be here was very Cooperative with everything. We are afraid that with those security measures that people would be upset and I remember upsetting a few people who didn't want their ID tractor various things, but for the most part people are just so grateful that we were there and available for them. They no problem. We didn't have hard security. We didn't have anyone walking around with a badge and a gun.
19:45 As a matter of fact, we didn't allow anyone in who had a gun that was part of the having a safe space me even even the police if they wanted to come in. They had to give their weapon to one of their colleagues until they came in and and use the facilities.
20:05 Yeah, I think it if I fostered a good environment that day.
20:09 It's hard when you got tear-gassed being sprayed in the front steps and people pulling out guns behind the building, but I think we did a good job keeping it safe on the inside you and I are different age by about forty years maybe a little bit more and I grew up in in the the 60s and 70s. I was I was a student at college and university medical school student and I really missed all of the demonstration and all of the violence that was happening on college is the college's I was attending didn't have any of that and in a way I was protected but in a way I didn't really get the opportunity.
21:01 To experience what it's like
21:05 To stand up for what's right?
21:09 And have others chapter down.
21:13 Is this reminiscent to you of those demonstrations and things do you feel like I do it again? It's it was such an important part of my life to do that and
21:31 It's really really really important. And I'm I'm happy that I was here. I would do it again. And I think that this is a role that the church should play. I think it is the church being the church.
21:49 You know several years ago. We decided that we would remain downtown and be a Downtown Church rather than moving to the suburbs where everyone could park and when we did that we made sure that everyone understood that being a Downtown Church net we had to serve the downtown and that even though people who come here are are mostly from the suburbs are our goal. And our role is to be supportive of the community around us and to enter show the face of Christ to those people.
22:27 I think we did that on August 12th. I think our physical proximity demanded that presents and I'm glad we fulfilled that I was surprised that we were the only church around downtown that did that and obviously as you were saying that everyone in the church agreed or felt like we should be doing that that day but I mean everyone thankfully Safeway on the other side and I think we made a big difference for a lot of people that day even if it was for a short time.
23:06 Sure. Sure.
23:18 What you remember of?
23:31 The inside of the church was was open in the sanctuary for people to come in to sit quietly and pray. We had volunteers sort of being monitors there. We had some pastors and they're offering to sit with people and pray. We had a food station in our gathering space right outside the the sanctuary where we had food and water for people. We also had mental health workers in a in another room off the Gathering space. We had a first aid station off that Gathering space as well. We had places where we were preparing coffee and food downstairs in the church. We had bathrooms that we had to keep clean. We had to keep people off the porch.
24:25 I'll have to ask the front doors. Once the teargas came out and my role was to coordinate all the volunteers that were in and in their doing that service about half of the group of volunteers and Katie was outside.
24:41 Yeah, I was outside we could come up with a kind of a tentative system. I guess it was a few days before because the initial plan was to let everyone in no matter why you were in town and then we decided we couldn't call ourselves a safe space if we were allowing white supremacist into the building as well. So then the child became how do you determine if you're a white supremacist or not? And I remember I think we kind of joked about focusing primarily on white males. But I remember watching YouTube live feed of the march on Friday night and just being there was this woman who is filming at who was a counter-protester and she was filming them before they started marching with the Torches and I don't know how they allowed her to get this close with her phone because she was right up in their face and I remember seeing these men and thinking like I you could be my classmate you could be my neighbor and I wouldn't think anything of it. So hell on Earth Tomorrow am I supposed to determine if you're
25:40 Good guy or bad guy. If you aren't wearing your white polo shirt in your khaki pants. So yeah, we had kind of a strict run down like a list of questions and my friend Meredith and I were kind of the front line there because we had been attending which of these meetings and had been pretty familiar with a lot of the activist and clergy in town. So we could recognize names and things that someone would look up some help you I'm here to use the bathroom. Okay. Are you here if you know anyone that's inside the building. Yes, I know someone so if they could give us a name that we recognized they automatically got in if anyone of us knew them or recognized them they could go in we started working hands to show that we had talked to them and vetted them and I remember to at the end of the day. We're just getting tired because I mean it was hours on end and we had another line of and it was very high security at the actual doors of the church cuz we've been standing in the parking lot and I
26:40 Forgetting that those people to the actual doors were checking the hands for the marks. And so these counter-protesters were just so exhausted as well are coming through. They're letting us check their bags are letting us wanted them with the metal detector. They're just trying to get inside to use the bathroom and they come back in there like you didn't mark my hand is like to stay on their hands. So we had kind of multiple lines there. But yeah, it just it was hard a minute one point we decided to be safer to ID everyone not just white male. So then you've got just groups of people coming and having to wait in line and then meanwhile people being brought in that have Maalox wasn't that what they used one of their faces, if you've been a auction, I've got people discovered and Maalox and their own sweat being just held up and carried into be hosed off after being pepper-sprayed and we had people right after the accident. I think we'd heard that Heather heyer had been hit by the car.
27:40 And it does what nights in other people were injured, but then we've got people being escorted up who can't even talk and their friends are saying they just saw someone get run over. We just have to take them inside and it was just yeah, the level of shock was outrageous and I don't remember it was definitely tents and very heightened emotionally, but the only time I was really scared I think was when the white supremacist kept driving around the parking lot and just chanting and Cat calling us and they all had weapons. But at one point someone turn around and pulled a gun on us sitting in the parking lot and I just I can kind of see flashes of it. But yeah just like running for the doors and yelling lockdown and hoping that everybody got in before anything happen, and I don't think any shots were fired but
28:31 You don't expect to have to put your dirt on lockdown let alone be running from a gunman into your church.
28:39 It's was a very traumatic tag. No question about it and you know.
28:47 And and I must say that I really wonder what in the world goes through the minds of people who would give up a weekend to come and terrorize a community. What is it that they wanted Wyatt? You know, they must have some fears that that I can't even imagine but there's something going on there. That's really really detrimental to the health of of them and others.
29:22 Yeah, I was just thinking what I even travel somewhere else to do what we did that day and part of me wonders. I would like to think that I would do that courageous again, but it was this is my church. This is my community. This is something I had to do. So to travel I would if we think about it, I wouldn't jump to do that though. I would probably go but you got to think you're traveling how far to just be hateful and hurtful and
29:49 What's the goal?
29:52 The goal is really very elusive. I think and I think that it's no I don't see that as something I'm going to find the answer to but I certainly think that is something that we as a nation and we as a community need to consider we need to think about these things. What would allow Charlottesville August 12th to occur?
30:18 Yes, and how we prevent it from how do we prevent this from happening again? Not just here, but that in anywhere everywhere.
30:40 Your perception of the community
30:46 Is there anything like?
30:56 Being aware of
31:00 The pain and the fear that must exist within the African-American community in Charlottesville. So real Awakening today, I had no idea any of this. I guess I just lived in a little white Ivory Tower and thought the well, everything was just fine, but everything is not fine in our community and certainly that is changed me. It's changed my outlook. It has made me study more read more go to events that I'm not always comfortable going to because I need to know.
31:45 What is going on, and I need to understand and I'm trying to understand that.
31:54 Reaching out is a two-way street one can't just say come on in. Come on over one has to go over first one has to be the first to extend a hand if if hands are the clasp.
32:14 I was in my thoughts are similar. Obviously, we've been working a lot of groups together to learn about things and to educate others about things and I feel like every day I'm learning something new and I'm still trying to understand that perspective at one of the nonviolent training that we went to I was speaking with a woman of color and we were talking about please presents at the rally from July and how that was handled and coordinated and I've grown up always believing that the police were going to do their Best Buy me and protect me and never thought anything else and I think in most cases for me personally that would be the case and this woman just stopped and looked and said well if you trust the place I suppose that's a good perspective to have and it had never even dawned on me that people don't trust the police and now I'm learning so many different things about I mean obviously police brutality is very prominent on the news, but just for people who have never had any run-ins with the police, they still are terrified every time they get pulled over.
33:14 Or wouldn't necessarily call the authorities if something were going wrong in their life and my privilege has allowed me to go so long without even thinking twice about that that I've definitely had to try and get myself a reality check. So white privilege really is a reality no matter what we used to think and certainly August 12th is change my my vision of that and and I have learned so much in the last year about racial Injustice and about hate and anger.
34:09 Other volunteerism members
34:12 Or anyting from that day that sticks out on your
34:22 Church members are even people.
34:26 I think that a lot of people in the church a lot of members in the church or surprised at the violence that occurred on August 12th. They were surprised they were shocked.
34:45 Perhaps some felt guilty that they weren't participating even though no, there's they should not feel guilty. That was not a day for everyone to volunteer 100a for families. It wasn't a day for old folks. Although some of us are other no underage.
35:06 It it it was a it was a day for people who who felt like they really could participate and work hard and and do those sorts of things.
35:19 I think that the majority of people in the church would say that they were in support of what we did that they were pleased that this could happen and that the safe that we provided a safe space. I think that
35:37 There were others who really wished it it it never happened and wish that we had not been involved in it. That's taken some healing with inside the church as well. And and I think that a lot of our leaders including the pastors have have worked hard and trying to educate and
36:07 Help people deal with their personal responses to it.
36:14 I agree. I think it's the only taking time to process and fortunately most of the people that I associate with frequently in the congregation of similar views to me cuz I don't know how patient I would be explaining things to them. And I know a lot of the feedback we received early on as we tried to move forward as a church with some of our work in the social justice racial Injustice area was met with a little bit of push back.
36:43 From some of the members and I was just being told, you know people group of segregation people grew up in a different time than you and obviously they're young people that were at the rally as well, but they just need time to really get on board. And I think that's one big difference is seeing what we saw on the 12th and Justin still such a sense of urgency that I have a really hard time giving people time or space to wait and it's hard to even in part on that even the stories what that is like so that's been a personal struggle in a difference with think we have we've been doing a lot to support the community and support Community with people of color and trying to do a lot of Education trying to put out information for on a weekly basis. You've been putting out information on a weekly basis things to read places to go movies to see
37:43 So that we can get a better feel for where we really are. We it's sort of reality testing a time for us. And in reality is not always Pleasant for any of us. I think I'll just wait for our church internally. I think that's been the biggest goal right now is education in kind of recognizing where we're at that we can go out and help other people and support them to church changed on August 12th. There's no question about that. This church will never be the same church. It was on August 5th the week before it just will never be the same. And is that good or bad? I like to think that increase awareness.
38:41 Is always good that helping others is always good providing a safe space is always good change is difficult. It's difficult for all of us as we get older change this even more more difficult, but I think that over my 40 years here. I've seen lots of change and what I've seen is that people are willing to be open if they have information and really understand what's being asked of them and and why
39:29 Thanks for all your support with everything. You just been running since it's also I feel like I do to it feels like it was just yesterday. It's been 6 months, but it doesn't feel like 6 months today. It feels like it was yesterday because the entire. Of time almost feels like it's been one day because it hasn't been something that was very definite on doesn't have an on-off switch and has an ongoing presence.