Kiley Banker, Harrison alum and sophomore at the University of Virginia, was not at ground zero on August 11 when the “Unite the Right” rally, a protest against the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee attended by a variety of far-right groups, took place in Charlottesville, Virginia.
But that does not mean she and her Cavalier volleyball teammates were not affected, or did not catch a glimpse of the incident’s effects as they happened in one way or another. Helicopters hovered outside her apartment all day.
“I was in my apartment, which was about two miles away from where it happened,” Banker said. “My (Virginia volleyball) teammates were in the apartment with me because we were on lockdown, and we weren’t allowed to go outside of our apartment for safety measures.”
One of the dozens of people injured at the rally, many caused by a white supremacist who drove a car through a street filled with counter-protesters, happened to have a connection to one of Banker’s volleyball teammates.
“They had a class together, and she was one of the people that got hit by a car,” Banker said. “Currently her skull is fractured, and she’s in the hospital. I didn’t personally know her, but if you know people that know somebody else, you still really feel.”
It was acts of violence such as this and the sheer scale and intensity of the rally that has shaken many people in Charlottesville.
“At times like this, you can’t fire back with more violence,” Banker said. “You just have to love the people around you harder, which is what I plan to do.”
It is fear invoked by these white supremacists, many of which had came from outside of town for the rally, that has led to transfers and lack of security felt among groups targeted by white supremacists that Banker can tell is present from her African American teammates and others she knows.
It is this same fear that Banker said she, the rest of the fall athletes, and UVA at large, are doing their best to pacify.
“I know the athletic community is trying to figure out how we can contribute, so we’ve all been trying to bounce ideas off of each other,” Banker said. “We’re all communicating as a group.
“I know there are students reaching out to incoming freshmen, trying to explain to them this isn’t what our university is about. We’re trying to make it more diverse. We’re trying to make it accepting. Most of the people that came to Charlottesville weren’t even from Charlottesville. That’s the big thing that a lot of people don’t realize. The guy that hit people with cars was from Ohio.”
A vigil held in honor of Heather Heyer, a counter-protester who died after being struck during the aforementioned car-ramming, represents steps being taken to show UVA is not defined by these white supremacists.
The vigil, held outside the Rotunda on the UVA campus, was attended by thousands and featured attendees bringing candles and singing songs such as “This Land Is your Land.”
“(The vigil was) a huge thing,” Banker said. “Just showing that the students and the athletes that are here currently want to do something. Nobody wants to be silent about the event because the worst thing you can be is silent after an event like this, because it’s something you don’t want to forget.”
She also said she expects more action to be taken once classes begin on August 23.
While Banker has said that she and the people around her are doing their best to let the world know that Charlottesville is not what the rally might have painted it as, she also said that she still has her own fears of the future plans of the white supremacists.
“I am scared for what’s to come because I think this isn’t just the first event for them,” Banker said. “There was a video that I watched the other day where interviewers had talked to members of the KKK, and the stuff that they say is just absurd. They say stuff like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to be back, we’re going to be out there. We’re not afraid to be violent if we need to.’ It’s scary.”
But Banker said she knows what she might do if another event such as “Unite The Right” occurs.
“I think that I’m going to probably be basing my stuff off of my team because I want my team to feel like we’re all supporting each other,” she said.