By the time he participated in a teleconference Tuesday with reporters who cover Virginia’s football program, Charles Snowden had made four trips to the heart of the nation’s capital.
A fifth visit was in the works Tuesday.
“For me, it’s been an eye-opening experience,” said Snowden, who has been staying at his family home in Silver Spring, Maryland, not far from the Washington, D.C., city limits.
Snowden made the trips with three of his former classmates from St. Albans School, including UVa football walk-on Donovan Rolle.
Protests in Washington were similar to those held nationwide after George Floyd was killed while in custody of Minneapolis policemen.
Black Lives Matter marches and protests were staged throughout the country. One of the better-known incidents occurred in Washington’s Lafayette Square, which Snowden saw firsthand.
What started as a peaceful protest near the White House on one side of the square on June 1 concluded with the protesters being violently dispersed by law enforcement.
The episode concluded with President Donald Trump and a number of his top officials marching through the cleared square to a shuttered St. John’s Episcopal Church, where Trump posed for cameras with a Bible in his hand.
At 6 foot 7, Snowden had a good angle to watch the events from start to finish.
Trump’s actions sparked a wide range of emotions.
“We were at the White House,” said Snowden, a rising senior outside linebacker. “We literally were 5 yards away from the National Guard, the D.C. [police department] and the Secret Service. They all took a step back. So, we’re all thinking, ‘This is a victory,’ but we didn’t know.
“Next thing we know, there were two loud bangs. Immediately, there was panic and people started to run. This one dude had white stuff all up and down his neck and his eyes were red.
“To me, it was an eye-opening experience. A lot comes from anger, frustration and pain, but there was also a feeling of community and help.”
Back home, his parents, Charles Sr. (Chuck) and Terri, were counting the minutes until his return.
“We act like this was a long time ago,” Chuck Snowden said in a phone interview Tuesday, “but, up till the last two weeks, the coronavirus [pandemic] had everybody on lockdown. We weren’t leaving the house. The highlight of my week was to go to the grocery store twice.
“Charles is very, very socially involved and cares almost to a fault. I said, ‘Dude, you know corona is out there, right?’
“I made a sports analogy and this is probably not politically correct, but I said, ‘[Coronavirus] was up 28-3 and now the riots and protests have started and they’re down 28-3.’
“He said, ‘Dad, I get it.’ He drives and gets as close as he can, and then he walks or he’ll ride with a friend of his. I hoped that he would come to the conclusion that it was safer to stay home, but he didn’t.
“I don’t think my wife thought it was a good idea at all. She was proud as hell, but we were both very cautious. It was mostly because of the virus. Here’s the thing: Charles is a smart guy. He has what I call a high ‘get-it.’ He had to weigh these things, too.”
To this point, their son’s decisions have not been challenged to any great degree.
“We have a close-knit group; we support our brothers and it was comforting being out there with them,” Charles Snowden said. “I want to make sure this movement doesn’t die down.
“My parents taught me right from wrong and I’ll stand up for what’s right and not hold my tongue. The more success I have in athletics, it helps me being a leader as well. If I were some Joe Schmo, it wouldn’t have the same impact.
“I’ve been given this platform and I feel I should do something with it.”