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It was probably the most helpless I’ve ever felt in my life.
Leanne Chia: We were there, and we were wondering, What could we do? As more chaos broke out, it was hard to distinguish who was who. When I saw the line of them and heard what they were saying, I immediately started crying.
They looked at us and said, “Watch those girls.” I couldn’t stop myself from exclaiming, “You’re scared of ? I'm 5'11", but I was wearing a crop top and cutoffs and had nothing on me but my phone.
It was fascinating that the leader of the white nationalist group was surrounded by intense security and seemed scared of two young women who only had their phones as weapons. The megaphone he planned to use was not working so he began screaming: "We just won a historic victory! "When we went home, I wrote down everything that happened and shared it just so I could raise awareness.
Here, in their own words, they share exactly what they saw.
I woke up the next morning and the video had gone viral.
But we didn't witness any clashes between protesters and counterprotesters, or with the police, at the time—they seemed to have happened earlier in the morning.
Leanne: We saw the aftermath of fights—maybe one or two people, bruised and bleeding—but we never saw a fight in front of us.
We had seen police on our way to campus [but not on the lawn]. Elizabeth: It was only when the white supremacist marchers started attacking the students that the police moved in. And in that whole group of white supremacists, we saw only three or four women. But I didn't feel bad about what they were saying—I felt bad I responded how I did and they could see it having an effect on me.
Leanne: It was the first time in my life I experienced something like this. I couldn't let them see that they could have an effect on me.
They were screaming the whole time: “You will not replace us. White lives matter.” People were so proud to be there, waving at our cameras. When the tail end of the march reached the Jefferson statue, we could see hundreds of people surrounding it—but through the chaos, there were students at the base holding a sign: “VA Students Act Against White Supremacy.” We watched as the marchers started attacking the counterprotesters: kicking them, pushing them, beating them with their tiki torches.