The Student News Site of Clemson University

The Tiger

The Tiger

The Tiger

Clemson community members gather for vigil honoring Charlottesville victims

More than 120 people gathered in the Clemson University Carillon Gardens on Saturday night for a candlelight vigil to remember those who were killed and injured after violence erupted at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend.  


The event, organized by the Clemson chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in partnership with several Clemson campus ministries, gave members of the surrounding community a chance to discuss their thoughts and feelings about what happened.


Clemson SDS President Dawn Lifsey says they weren’t expecting such a large turnout and that organizers quickly ran out of candles as a result.


“I had no idea it was going to be this big. People came from as far as Greenville and Anderson, [and] there were high school students out here. I expected it to mostly be students and faculty members,” Lifsey said afterwards. “That [kind of turn out] makes me really, really happy. It’s just sad that an event like this has to be the trigger for that to happen.”


The vigil began with a recitation of a poem and prayer, and the floor then opened up for people to discuss what had happened and what next steps to take.

Some of those who were present said they weren’t surprised by the violence in Charlottesville.


“It’s the expectation. As a person of color, no one was surprised,” CUSG vice president Jaren Stewart said. “The people I’ve spoken to, incoming freshmen even, no one was surprised. It’s the world we live in. I just hope in a year [from now] people remember this.”


Some also expressed concern that what happened in Charlottesville could happen in Clemson.


“We’ve seen the fuss that white nationalists have made over the idea of changing the name of Tillman Hall back to what it was before. We’ve seen how they recruit when things happen on campus,” Lifsey said. “I don’t think it’s out of the question that something like that could happen here, and the idea that it’s possible, that it could happen here, scares me more than anything.”


Others discussed ideas for what to do next, including plans for future events and the important role that volunteering and education can make.


“At the end of the day, we’re all here at Clemson University in some capacity, and when we graduate we’re going to have the same degree,” said Cambridge Gamble, a junior elementary education major and member of the Call Me MISTER program. “We should teach each other love and respect and together we’ll all be one.”


Lifsey was in Charlottesville and saw some of the violence first hand. They said the idea for the vigil came during the ride home.


“I was thinking in the car on the way back we need to bring Clemson together,” Lifsey said. “I was just thinking to myself we have to bring this community together to resist this because white nationalists have recruited on this campus, … and we can’t allow that to continue. We have to become a strong united community in order to resist and fight back against that.”


In Feb. 2017 and Oct. 2016, Ku Klux Klan materials were found across campus and in the surrounding area. Similar incidents had occurred beforehand as well.


In an email to the student body in Feb. 2017, Clemson University president James Clements said, “While this is not the first time KKK fliers or other discriminatory materials have appeared, they do not represent our Clemson family and our core values — integrity, honesty and respect … There is no room at Clemson for actions that are meant to intimidate, harass or jeopardize the well-being and safety of another individual in our community.”


Last night’s vigil was originally set to be held on Bowman Field, but it was moved to the Carillon Gardens due to security concerns. Lifsey says the move was a joint decision between organizers and CUPD. CUPD and SLED were on scene to provide security for the event. The vigil was peaceful, and police did not have to intervene.

“Bowman is right next to a four lane highway and given the nature of the events in Charlottesville, people are more comfortable being away from the street especially since there were people there who are here tonight,” Lifsey said.


The vigil isn’t the first response from Clemson students and community members to Charlottesville. Last week, more than 100 Clemson student leaders from CUSG and other campus organizations signed a letter denouncing the actions in Charlottesville. CUSG president Killian McDonald also joined other student government presidents from across the U.S. to pen a letter denouncing the Charlottesville violence. Representatives from Faculty Senate also wrote an Open Forum essay about the events.


Lifsey said they hope that the vigil gave people a chance to heal from the events and support each other in the process.


“I really haven’t even had the time to process what happened,” Lifsey told The Tiger afterwards. “Tonight was important in that it [helped with] the process of getting through all of the emotions that come with surviving a terrorist attack.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Tiger

Your donation will support the student journalists of Clemson University . Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Tiger

Comments (0)

All The Tiger Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *