Peace Monument vandalized during anti-violence march through Atlanta

ATLANTA — What was a scene of hate and horror after a car plowed into a group of counterprotesters at an "alt-right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, has now become a scene filled with love and remembrance for the woman who lost her life in the tragedy.

A federal investigation is underway after James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio, allegedly rammed his vehicle into a crowd of anti-racism protesters, killing Heather Heyer and seriously injuring 19 others.

Fields was charged with second-degree murder and other counts. A judge denied him bond Monday.


Hundreds of people took to the streets of downtown Atlanta on Sunday night to show solidarity with the victims of the Charlottesville violence.

Marchers started in Woodruff Park, made their way to Peachtree Street, walked along Peachtree Street to 10th Street and then gathered in Piedmont Park at the Peace Monument near the 14th Street entrance to the park. Then they made their way along the Atlanta Beltline.

While at Piedmont Park, the marchers spray-painted the Peace Monument, which features a statue of a Confederate soldier and an angel, and chanted slogans decrying President Donald Trump.

“The way he pulled a punch and didn't full call it white supremacy hurt me as an American. And I felt like, rather than sit at home and cry, I needed to be out in public to voice my opinion,” marcher Howie Sanfoka told Channel 2’s Chris Jose.

There was virtually no police presence as demonstrators marched from Woodruff Park up Peachtree Street, snarling traffic as they went. When they arrived at the park, some climbed the statue and defaced it. One protester was hurt by metal falling from the statue.

“I feel like we're in the middle of history in the making. And I want to be on the side of history that said, ‘We at least stood up for doing things differently,'” marcher Kelly Karanovich said.

In Decatur, a big crowd showed up at the square to make their voices heard and then pause in silence.

“I hope it makes a lot of people feel like, ‘Oh, all different kinds of people are opposed to this kind of extremism,’" one attendee said.

People of different ages and ethnicities repeated organizers’ words about respect, liberty and values. Meymoona Freeman led the charge.

“People here are resisting. They’re saying, 'No, this is not our society, and we’re not going to accept it,'” Freeman said.

Hannah Hawkins wore a photo of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman who died after a car rammed into a crowd marching in Charlottesville.

“A terrorist killed her, and we are in danger from these white terrorists, from these terrorists supporting white supremacy,” she said.

Rachael Kates, a Jewish Atlantan, wants to remind people Jews are the primary targets of Nazism.

“Every human life is sacred, and life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness does not include being attacked,” Kates said.

A makeshift memorial grew for those killed amid the violence in Virginia, including two officers who died when a helicopter monitoring the march crashed. Hawkins wants others to get involved, speak up and resist hatred.

“There are too many people who are sort of standing by like it doesn’t affect them. And it will affect them, and they need to act,” Hawkins said.

The vigil took place in the shadow of a confederate statue. Some pointed out the irony. Freeman said she’s more interested in the beautiful community that showed up than the concrete.

Reporter Joe Bruno with Channel 2 Action News' sister station, WSOC-TV, traveled to Charlottesville on Sunday. Bruno said when he first arrived in Charlottesville, he witnessed a powerful moment as dozens of strangers joined hands and formed a circle on 4th St. Northeast, where Heyer was killed.

People were crying but nobody said a word.

Bruno said he found messages of hope throughout Charlottsville. But despite the messages of love and support now flooding the city, Bruno said Saturday’s violence remained heavy on everyone's mind.

Many of the people injured are starting to recover. Bruno met Sunday with Deandre Harris, who he said was attacked and nearly killed during the protests.

Harris suffered a concussion, a broken wrist, a chipped tooth, many bruises and needed eight staples to close a wound in his head.

“They were just beating me with poles, sticks and kicking me and hitting me and telling me to die,” Harris told Bruno. “I'm glad God gave me the grace to be able to share my story.”

A large vigil was originally scheduled for Sunday evening on the University of Virginia’s campus, but was canceled due to security concerns.

The Associated Press and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this article.