Saturday 22 July 2017

Here's what happened when torch-wielding demonstrators protested against the removal of a Confederate statue

The Charlottesville mayor said the protest “harkens back to the days of the KKK”.

By Kameron Virk

A group of protesters wielding torches took to the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, to voice their disapproval over plans to remove a Confederate monument.

Why were they protesting?

The group – led by white nationalist Richard Spencer, a prominent figure in the so-called alt-right movement – say they were celebrating their “heritage”.

“I’m here to take part in this great celebration of our heritage and to say ‘no’ to the city of Charlottesville. You’re not going to tear down our statue and you’re not going to replace us,” Spencer told NBC.

Chants heard included “all white lives matter”, “you will not replace us”, and “Russia is our friend”.

What’s the statue?

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A monument to General Robert Edward Lee – the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the American civil war – has stood in Charlottesville since 1924.

The city council voted for its removal earlier this year, citing residents who see it as a sign of white supremacy.

What is the connection between Confederates and white supremacy?

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In 1860, 11 southern US states seceded from the Union to protect the institution of slavery, forming the Confederate States of America which led to the American civil war.

The Confederate flag has come to represent a symbol of hatred and racism for many people, including some of those who wave it proudly, although to others it’s a symbol of southern pride.

What was the reaction to the protest?

Mayor Mike Signer called the protest either “profoundly ignorant” or aimed at instilling fear in “minority populations in a way that hearkens back to the days of the KKK”.

The Daily Progress reports that Charlottesville Republican Party chairman Erich Reimer said the group’s promotion of “intolerance and hatred” is “utterly disgusting and disturbing beyond words”.

Hundreds of community members came out for a candle-lit counter protest, telling the Daily Progress: “They will not come here to intimidate us unchallenged.”

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