Society

KKK-like Protest Sparks Response From Local Politicians

| by Shani Shahmoon

Over 100 people gathered at a local park in Virginia to protest the removal of Confederate-era statues by burning torches and shouting controversial chants.

Following the event, Virginia's politicians have spoken outright against the KKK-like protest. 

On May 13 at 9 p.m., more than 100 people gathered at Lee Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest against the removal of the park namesake's statue, Confederate General Robert E. Lee, BBC reported.

Dozens in the crowd held lit torches and joined the rally, chanting phrases like, "You will not replace us," "Russia is our friend," and the heavily criticized alt-right slogan, "Blood and soil."

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The protesters were positively greeted by Richard Spencer, an alt-right leader who has been filmed joining neo-Nazi supporters of President Donald Trump, saluting and shouting, "Heil Trump."

The protest came after the Charlottesville City Council voted in April to remove and sell the statue of Robert E. Lee that currently stands at the location of the protest, The New York Times reported

The call to remove these monuments was a reaction to the 2015 terrorist attack at a black church in South Carolina's capital, where a self-identified white supremacist shot and killed nine black churchgoers.

Since then, New Orleans has set the precedent in removing Confederate-era monuments. Workers in charge of the removals have taken careful measures to avoid violent outcry by completing tasks in the middle of the night while wearing face masks and bullet proof vests and surrounded by armed police officers.

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The protest in Virginia took place during a time of high tension. Primaries are taking place in June for governor elections, also known as gubernatorial elections.

Given that, many of Virginia's leading politicians have taken to responding to the controversial incident.

Virginia Mayor Mike Signer posted a public condemnation statement on his Facebook page.

He said the protest was "either profoundly ignorant or was designed to instill fear in our minority populations in a way that hearkens back to the days of the KKK."

He and Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy urged the community to remain "united in diversity."

In addition to Virginia's current instated political leaders, four out of the five candidates for governor have spoken out against the removal, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Corey Stewart, the alt-Right Republican candidate, reportedly went to Twitter to defend his right to refrain from commenting on the issue.

"Only a jerk would talk politics on Mother’s Day," Stewart wrote at around 6:00 p.m.

The candidate's Twitter feed was filled with political posts all day, both before and after he said he didn't support talking politics that day.

Stewart has made protecting Southern heritage a major part of his campaign and has rallied in support of keeping Confederate-era statues standing.

On May 14, the day after the torch-lit event, people gathered at the same location to counter-protest the previous day's rally. 

Sources: The New York Times, BBC, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, Mike Signer/Facebook / Photo credit: Cville dog/Wikimedia Commons

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