McAuliffe - at church

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks about the tragedies that unfolded after the Unite The Right rally during a visit Sunday to Mount Zion First African Baptist Church in Charlottesville.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe declined TV interviews Sunday morning and went right to his constituents.

McAuliffe and other elected officials gathered at Mount Zion First African Baptist Church and First Baptist Church, both in Charlottesville, Sunday morning to speak to congregants about the deaths that resulted from the white nationalist Unite the Right rally on Saturday.

“To the white supremacists and the neo-Nazis who came to our beautiful state yesterday, there is no place for you here in Charlottesville, there is no place for you in Virginia and there is no place for you in the United States of America,” McAuliffe said at Mount Zion.

McAuliffe led a moment of silence for the three people “... who lost their lives yesterday doing what they loved doing, fighting for freedom.”

On Saturday, 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed and 19 people were injured after a driver sped into a crowd of counter-protesters at Fourth Street Northeast and Water Street mid-afternoon.

About two hours after the car crash, two state troopers, Jay Cullen and Berke Bates, were killed when their police helicopter crashed and burned near Old Farm Road. The helicopter was involved in providing rally surveillance and information during the day.

McAuliffe had worked closely with both state troopers.

“Jay had flown me for three and a half years, but Berke was part of my protection detail for three years and he had just moved over to, something he had always dreamed of, the helicopter detail. And he had only been on the detail for a week,” he told reporters. “Today is his 41st birthday and it just breaks our heart. I just spoke to him on Friday. He called me up and wanted to send my son a care package overseas. It’s senseless.”

While McAuliffe said he had been angry, he said he had put his anger aside and asked others to do the same.

“Let us use today to reach out to our fellow citizens, put your hand out to help them,” he said. “Let us show these people that we are bigger than them, we are stronger than them.”

Mayor Mike Signer said Charlottesville was still one of the greatest communities in the world.

“We will get through this stronger than we were yesterday,” he said. “Our democracy has been through a lot, we’ve been through segregation and Jim Crow, and we’ve been through McCarthyism. And we will get through this challenge and we are going to do it together.”

Attorney General Mark R. Herring said that while it a difficult and a tragic day for the community and for the country, Sunday’s thoughts should be of peace.

“Peace and love for all, for this community, for those who were hit and for those families who are suffering an unspeakable loss,” he said. “Let us also recommit ourselves in the weeks and in the months and in the years ahead to never stay silent in the face of injustice.”

Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam said people need to ask themselves where does hate come from and who taught these people.

“It is incumbent on all of us to make sure that we promote inclusivity in the commonwealth of Virginia, that we promote equality, that we are all God’s people, that we are all in this together, that we’re to promote love,” he said.

Don Gathers, chairman of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials and Public Spaces, said at First Baptist Church that on Friday and Saturday the devil had come to Charlottesville and that “yesterday was something out of a war zone.”

“I implore you, please continue to pray for this congregation, pray for this city, pray for this entire community and more than that, pray for our leaders,” he said. “At times like these, we need leadership, we need direction, and we’re looking to the leaders of this community and of this state to provide that.”

Del. David J. Toscano, a former Charlottesville mayor, said the events of this weekend have left him feeling both drained and energized.

“The events of yesterday were very troubling and they took a lot of energy to process,” he said after the second service. “But this morning in the church, I was uplifted and energized to start anew and move forward in healing our community and building bridges to make the commonwealth a better place.”

Standing outside of First Baptist, Charlottesville City Councilor Wes Bellamy echoed the governor’s remarks in that people need to rally together now.

“We don’t fall down. And if we do, we stand back up,” he said. “That’s what the city of Charlottesville is.”

“We are going to be encouraged by these cowards who thought that they could break us, but actually what they did was make us stronger,” he later added.

Daily Progress staff writer Michael Bragg contributed to this story.

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Allison Wrabel is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact her at (434) 978-7261, awrabel@dailyprogress.com or @craftypanda on Twitter.

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