On Saturday, demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, led by white nationalist Richard Spencer, protested the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Lee Park. Spencer, who coined the phrase “alt-right” and was a student at Charlottesville’s University of Virginia, led two rallies at Lee Park, one in the afternoon and a second one later Saturday night.
The Washington Post reported that during the Saturday afternoon protest in Charlottesville, Spencer and the other demonstrators chanted “You will not replace us.” He stated to his fellow protestors that what brought them together were three things, that they were “white,” were “a people,” and would “not be replaced.”
According to UPI.com, in 2001, Spencer graduated “from the University of Virginia.” Orry Von Dize, another of the protestors who spoke and addressed the crowd, said that they were “not white supremacists.” Dize said that they were “just white people” who loved their “heritage,” “culture,” and their “European identity.”
Local television footage showed that during the rally on Saturday night in Charlottesville, the protestors added the chant “Russia is our friend.” Though footage of Spencer was not seen, one of Spencer’s tweets included a photo that showed him in the crowd of demonstrators in Lee Park. Spencer was holding what looked like a lit tiki torch.
According to the Charlottesville Daily Progress, the second protest did not last very long, because after approximately 10 minutes, a fight broke out between the demonstrators led by Spencer and counterprotesters. Police responding to the scene caused the crowd to disperse and ended the altercation.
The City Council of Charlottesville voted to have the statue of General Robert E. Lee removed from Lee Park. According to ABC News, the vote took place on November 28. Spencer was in the Virginia town to protest the vote, though a court injunction had already resulted in a delay of at least six months until the statue is ultimately removed.
The removal of the statue of Lee has had an influence on the Virginia gubernatorial race. Republican candidate Corey Stewart is against the removal of the statue, as well as other monuments and the Confederate battle flag. He said he does not consider them to be symbols of hate, but a part of the history of the United States. He said in the past that by being against the removal of monuments like Lee’s statue and also the Confederate flag, he is fighting against “historical vandalism” and “political correctness.”
The other four candidates in the running to be the state’s governor all condemned the two rallies led by Spencer in Charlottesville. Two Republicans, state Sen. Frank W. Wagner and former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie, voiced their condemnation of the rallies, with Gillespie tweeting that the “divisive rhetoric and intimidation tactics” expressed at the rallies did not correspond with “the thoughtfulness and tolerance” he saw in his “fellow Virginians.”
In an email, Wagner called the two rallies “totally unacceptable.” He stated in the email that the people at the rallies were “racists,” and he added that he condemned “their actions and beliefs.” He also called on all Virginians “to act responsibly and honorably.”
The other two candidates for governor, former congressman Tom Perriello and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, both Democrats, also expressed their condemnation of the two rallies. All four candidates are seeking to become the next governor of Virgina, and succeed current Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who cannot run again because he is term-limited.
Northam said in a statement that there was not any place in Virginia “for hate, fear or intimidation.” He called the two rallies held in Charlottesville on Saturday “the last gasp of a disgusting ideology.”
Perriello had an exchange of tweets with Spencer, telling him to get his “white supremacist hate” out of the candidate’s hometown of Charlottesville. Spencer shot back that he and his fellow protestors had won, and in return, Perriello wrote on Twitter that Spencer and his supporters had “lost,” back when the Civil War ended, “In 1865.” Perriello added that, though the civil War ended 150 years ago, Spencer and his followers were “still not over it.”
Charlottesville’s mayor, Mike Signer, also voiced his criticism of the two rallies. He called the protests “horrific,” and said that Charlottesville was a city that proudly valued “diversity.” He described the people involved in the two rallies as being “beneath our contempt.”
At two rallies held in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, demonstrators led by white nationalist Richard Spencer protested the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Lee Park. The two rallies were widely criticized and four of Virginia’s gubernatorial candidates, as well as the mayor of Charlottesville, voiced their disgust at the sentiments behind the demonstrators at the two rallies.
By John Samuels
Photo Courtesy Twitter