Usually communities don’t rally around teens charged with felonious assaults. Usually when people raise money after crimes or disasters, it’s to help the victims– not the perps.
But on April 15 at Juvenile Court, when two Charlottesville High teens– described as “leaders” in the attacks on nine UVA students and one Piedmont Virginia Community College student– pleaded guilty to four felonies, supporters of the teens outnumbered those of the victims.
The Rev. Alvin Edwards of Mt. Zion Baptist Church stood at the bench in front of Judge Susan Whitlock with the 17-year-old female who took part in all five attacks. Edwards organized three different committees to address the racial divide in the community– and to raise money for the assailants’ legal defense.
The fundraising committee decided that 30 percent of the proceeds should go to the victims of the assaults, and one critic in the African-American community suggests that was done only because the committee was showing so much support for the attackers.
From a bake sale and individual donations the group has raised $3,000, according to Gail Wiley, spokesperson for the committees.
Not everyone in the black community supports the fund. Kenneth Jackson, for one, thinks the CHS teens got off easy.
“These kids know nothing about discrimination and segregation," says Jackson. "It’s about class and economics.”
“I think [Commonwealth’s attorney] Dave Chapman backed down because of charges of discrimination and segregation,” says Jackson. He adds, “If you break the law, you do the time whether you’re black, white, green, or purple.”
Jackson, a lifetime Charlottesville resident, attended one of the community meetings, and says he was “very disgusted” afterward because Edwards let the group vote out European Unity and Rights Organization members on March 10.
“I’m not offended by Aryan groups as long as they respect everyone’s civil liberties,” says Jackson, who claims that he invited EURO’s Ron Doggett to attend.
According to Jackson, “85 percent of the black community doesn’t condone the verdict and what happened.” He calls Edwards’ supporters “uninformed” and says most of the city’s black churches didn’t hop on the Mt. Zion bandwagon. Edwards did not return The Hook’s calls by presstime.
Not even all Mt. Zion members are in favor of the fundraising. Myra Anderson is one dissenter.
“I think it’s a waste of time to raise money for kids who’ve confessed," says Anderson.
“These were good kids, athletes we had cheered on. This is what we’d expect from troubled youths, not them," says Anderson.
“I don’t believe they’d have raised any money at all if these kids had come from Garrett Square,” she says.
Anderson would prefer that efforts go toward raising money for low-income youths who want to go to college.
So why hasn't Charlottesville heard such dissent until now?
“People who don’t support them are reluctant to say anything,” Anderson claims.
Jackson plans to start his own committee called Community Together to look at bettering the community as a whole, rather than focus on what he describes as Mt. Zion’s single issue of race relations. No word on bake sales yet.Read more on: racial divide