Confederate statues debate rages on in Virginia
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Confederate statues debate rages on in Virginia

Charlottesville, Virginia — the
home of America’s third president, the state’s flagship
university and ground zero of the confederate monument
debate. “You will not replace us.
You will not replace us.” Last year, white supremacists
descended on the city of Charlottesville to
protest the potential removal of confederate monuments that honor
Generals Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson. That ‘Unite
the Right’ rally turned into a violent clash between white
nationalists and counter-protesters — resulting
in dozens of injuries and three deaths. A year later, the debate
around these statues rages on throughout the country and
especially in Charlottesville. “How do you look at look at this
statue? How do you look at–” “It’s a symbol of White supremacy. It’s a symbol of
white supremacy.” Jalane Schmidt is the co-founder of the Black Lives
Matter chapter in Charlottesville. She’s been
calling for the removal of these statues for more than two years
— ever since several hundred people signed a
petition calling for the statues to be taken down. “So if you went all these years, with it being here? Why change it now?” “Well, this is always the case
for social change. I mean, ‘why are you
complaining, Dr. King, about segregated restaurants?
It’s like, we’ve always been fine. I mean, this is always,
the counter argument that’s made against social change
movements.” The city of Charlottesville held several hearings in 2016 so citizens could voice their support or opposition to removing the
statues. “What we learned,
you know, in, having more opponents of the statues attend
these meetings, these hearings that were held in 2016 is that
there were a lot of people that had the kind of passive opinion
that they didn’t like them, but there just hadn’t been a venue
to express that — a movement and this sort of thing. But once
there was a forum for expressing this with the Blue Ribbon
Commission people showed up, and they spoke their mind.” From North Carolina to New
Orleans and across the country,
confederate monuments are being debated, fought for and taken
down. Since the Charleston Church Shooting in 2015, 113
Confederate symbols have been taken down while more than 1700
still stand. The state of Virginia has more than 220
publicly displayed symbols and monuments to the Confederacy
including Richmond’s famous Monument Avenue.
Charlottesville’s downtown square centers around two
statues in particular, Confederate Generals Robert E
Lee and Stonewall Jackson. “When you start talking about removing statues or removing public figures that what you are doing is starting to move
into Orwellian territory.” Lewis Martin is a Charlottesvillian through and through, he’s lived
here his entire life, he went to the University of Virginia and
his family has been in the area for at least a hundred years. “My grandparents would have been in this park at the time that the statue was dedicated back
in 1924.” He’s also a preservationist, who
has been lobbying to keep these statues
standing in Charlottesville since the issue first arose two
years ago. “Back in those days, I think that probably all white
people would be considered to have what we consider in this
day and age white supremacist views. But I don’t think that
that’s a reason to tear down what those people put up.
Presentism is when you apply 21st century morals to
historical figures of another era.” “There’s no validity to
the presentism argument. And, and I’ve heard Lewis Martin raise that argument
countless times.” Ben Doherty, works at
UVA’s law school and is an activist in the city with an
organization called SURJ or Showing Up for Racial Justice. “There were thousands and thousands of people during
slavery times who knew it was wrong. That argument, that
presentism argument is ignoring all of those people. You cannot
say that that population, that 52% of the population did not
think that slavery was wrong.” Doherty was in the streets
protesting on August 12th. Him and his wife were just yards
away when James Fields Jr. drove his car into the crowd of
peaceful protestors. “And that was just just chaos. I
saw the first car in line, you know, perfectly innocent car just go
projecting out into the intersection with somebody just
splayed over the windshield. And so I was seeing this, but my
mind was not processing what was happening, because I couldn’t
imagine, you know, that somebody would actually just run over a
crowd of peaceful protesters.” Doherty and Schmidt say, what
happened in Charlottesville last year is part of the reason why
removing these statues is so important and it’s no
coincidence that white nationalists chose
Charlottesville for their rally. “You know, the fact that white
supremacists, multiple groups of white supremacists chose
Charlottesville last summer for their demonstrations to me,
should not surprise anybody, Charlottesville has been a
center of white supremacist thinking for hundreds of years.” “As this was being erected, right, and also the general Lee
statue just down the block was being erected in the 1920s. This
is when the local Ku Klux Klan chapter was established here.
And the inaugural ceremony that took place just a few months
before this statue was put in was in June 1921 at none other
than Jefferson’s Monticello. They literally went to
Jefferson’s tomb to have their first cross burning ceremony there.” Since removing Confederate statues from public
spaces became a national issue, many have come to the defense of these monuments but white supremacists and the so-called
alt-right have made it a point to rally around these symbols
across the country. “I look to Nazi Germany if you look at what
Hitler did, he co-opted many traditional German symbols to
incorporate them into his Nazi worldview. That was taking
something that there was nothing wrong with and perverting it and
I think that that’s exactly what these white supremacists have
done. “The thing about symbols is that, people rally around
them, people are mobilized with them. The problem with symbols
is that people are willing to die for them, and even kill for
them, as we saw this summer. So, yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s important
to, you know, that our civic spaces, you know, have symbols
that that represent our common values.”


  • CraftBeer Tastic

    I'm so sick of people thinking they can change history by scrubbing it out. BLM is noting more than a hate group, by the way. Such a JOKE!

  • Tom Lloyd

    I feel Martin Luther king and black statues are racists and I want those taken down or I’ll cry and cry and cry and whine and whine and then I’ll throw a temper tantrum until I get my way whaaaaaaaaaa whaaaaaaa whaaaaaaa

  • Southern Gentleman

    Why don’t people know the Confederacy was extremely diverse? African Americans, Native Americans, Jews, Hispanics, Latinos, Irish, French Algerians, and Cubans fought for the Confederacy.

    Like Stand Watie, Loretta Velasquez, Santos Benavides, Moses Ezekiel, Marlboro Jones, and W.S Lewis

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