White Nationalists Carry Torches at Confederate Statue Protest
A statue of Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate army during the Civil War, was the site of demonstrations this weekend that eventually required police intervention.
On Saturday night a group headed by Richard Spencer, a self-avowed white nationalist, gathered in Lee Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the city council's vote to remove the statue. They brought torches and chanted, "You will not replace us," as well "blood and soil," a slogan once used by Nazis.
A gathering of counter-protestors soon converged on the park, and members of the opposing groups began yelling at one another. Some altercations occurred, and police arrived. The two crowds then dispersed, with no subsequent scuffles.
Earlier in the day, Spencer led a rally where he told the crowd, "What brings us together is that we are white, we are a people, we will not be replaced." Spencer is a leader of the so-called "alt-right," a term he claims to have invented. The Anti-Defamation League defines "alt-right" thus:
Alt-Right is short for 'alternative right.' This vague term actually encompasses a range of people on the extreme right who reject mainstream conservatism in favor of forms of conservatism that embrace implicit or explicit racism or white supremacy.
Charlottesville's mayor, Mike Signer, issued a statement:
This event involving torches at night in Lee Park 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. Either way, as mayor of this city, I want everyone to know this: we reject this intimidation. We are a welcoming city, but such intolerance is not welcome here.
The statue of Robert E. Lee has become a prominent topic in the ongoing race for governor in Virginia. Most candidates denounced the white-nationalist rallies, including the two front-runners, Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Tom Perriello:
Spencer responded to Perriello:
Which prompted this reply: