In Charlottesville’s ‘summer of hate,’ a Chinese American pastor found his place in the struggle for civil rights

Religious leaders march in front of a crowd down a street, with trees behind them and a police vehicle in the corner of the image.

Michael Cheuk (third from the left in the red clergy stole) marched at Justice Park in Charlottesville, in opposition to a rally by the Ku Klux Klan on July 8, 2017. David McNair/The DTM

by Michael Cheuk

On Aug. 12, 2017, I spent the day at First United Methodist Church, helping counterprotesters and faith leaders communicate while white supremacists, neo-Nazis and racists marched the streets of Charlottesville, my home town. The church was a sanctuary for counter protesters, where I witnessed people seek care after being bloodied and bruised by the violence that day.

Even though I’ve been a pastor for over 20 years, the experience changed my understanding of sanctuary.

In the weeks and days leading up to Aug. 11 and 12, 2017, I did not think I would directly respond to the Unite the Right rally.

I am a founding member and secretary of the Charlottesville Clergy Collective, an interfaith group formed to address racial justice after a white supremacist killed nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Churc in Charleston in 2015. When the Ku Klux Klan planned to demonstrate against the removal of Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee statue in July  2017, we heard that local police recommended that residents stay away from downtown. Some members of our collective were receptive to this suggestion, but others vehemently disagreed because they believed faith leaders should publicly show up to confront white supremacy.

>Continue Reading on the Charlottesville Tomorrow Website

 

This story was published as a part of Charlottesville Inclusive Media’s First Person Charlottesville project. Have a story to tell? Here’s how.

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