Michael Shallal has bruises on his hips from the chaos that followed after a car plowed into counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month.

When he turned around, he didn't see a single person he recognized. Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old counter-protester killed in the crash, was thrown by his feet.

"It was like a bomb went off," he said. "I saw people getting run over. I know what dozens of bodies sound like when they are getting run over by a car. No one should have to know what that sounds like."

More than 40 University of Maryland students and local activists, or "comrades," crammed into a Jiménez Hall classroom — some standing in the doorway — to listen to a Charlottesville eyewitness share his experiences.

UMD Socialists organized the program as its first event of the semester.

By the time Shallal — who lives in Washington, D.C. — arrived with his group in Charlottesville that morning, there had already been scuffles between white supremacists and counter-protesters.

It was quiet on the streets because the state of emergency had already been called by that time, he said. He didn't see a single white supremacist.

Shallal's group heard there would be "Nazis" marching toward a low-income housing complex, filled with mostly working class and minorities, he said. But there were none when they arrived, so they headed back to Emancipation Park.

That was when the car drove through the crowd.

"Before I could see the car, I saw people flying through the air," Shallal said.

Shallal said although Charlottesville was "pretty much the most horrible experience of my life," he did learn from it.

The counter-protest at Charlottesville had "practically zero planning," he said, which was to ensure that neither police nor the white supremacists could "infiltrate" the plans. For the most part, only people who were already involved knew about the protest in advance.

"Keeping all information about the protests insular and away from public consumption severely hurt our ability to outnumber and disempower the fascists," Shallal said.

While attendees ranged from a Republican to many self-proclaimed "proud socialists," others were just curious about the event and speakers.

Paula Molina Acosta, a sophomore women's studies major, came "to engage in a dialogue and see what we can do about with the rise of fascism in the country."

Zainab Sharani, a junior computer science major, said she enjoyed that Shallal went through the details of what he experienced.

"Seeing it from the ground level was really interesting," said Sharani.

Sharani had thought the Charlottesville protest was just "sensational" before, she said, but after hearing details from someone who was there, "it was really crazy."

Along with a discussion of Charlottesville, speakers and audience members discussed incidents at this university that have left many students on edge.

Sean Urbanski, a former student at this university, has been indicted on one count of murder in connection with the death of 2nd Lt. Richard Collins, a black Bowie State University student who was fatally stabbed on the campus in May. Urbanski is white. The FBI and University Police are currently investigating it as a possible hate crime.

The group discussed a potential memorial for Collins and what the next steps would be for this university as a whole.

"I can still say even though we had that moment of silence, the black community is still shaken by it," junior history major Ronald Lyles said, referring to the minute-long silence this university held in Collins' memory Aug. 30.

Claire Baldi, an organizer from Columbia, said she wasn't just an anti-racism activist because it's a nice thing to do or a "charitable" thing to do.

"I want to live in a world where there's no injustice," she said.