Another protest by white nationalists against the city of Charlottesville’s decision to remove a state of Confederate General Robert E. Lee has caused controversy once again in the small college town. Not only are city officials worried about property damage and the safety of its residents, but the rally has even caused Airbnb to cancel several accounts associated with the Unite the Right rally.
The scale of this protest far surpasses the other two that occurred earlier this year. There could be as many as 1,000 protestors from alt-right groups like League of the South, the Nationalist Front and the Traditionalist Worker Party. But the city is also anticipating a large amount of counter-protestors, including members of Showing Up for Racial Justice, Black Lives Matter, Congregate Charlottesville and the National Socialist Movement.
The anticipated crowd is so large that city officials will only approve the permit to gather if it takes place in McIntire Park, instead of the originally planned Emancipation Park.
“Having the demonstration at McIntire Park is safer because the park is large enough to accommodate the size of the anticipated crowd,” said Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas. “It also avoids a situation whereby overflow crowds spill into the streets, as would likely occur at Emancipation Park.”
Jason Kessler, organizer of the rally, will not accept these terms. The headline of his website reads, “8/7/2017 Despite efforts by Charlottesville City Council to cancel our permit and deny us our first amendment rights, we will still be proceeding with the #UniteTheRight rally in Lee Park at 12pm.”
Charlottesville Police are now preparing for crowds at both locations.
University of Virginia’s President Teresa Sullivan sent an email to the student population encouraging the students to not participate, or at least avoid physical confrontation.
“One may stand up for one’s beliefs without physical confrontation. I urge students and all UVA community members to avoid the August 12 rally and avoid physical confrontation generally,” the email read. “…The organizers of the rally want confrontation; do not gratify their desire…I encourage you to participate in events on Saturday, August 12, that are open to the community and planned by UVA.”
Sullivan explains that one advocate of the rally said, “We should aim to draw the SJWs [social justice warriors] out in Charlottesville and create a massive polarizing spectacle in order to draw as huge a contrast as possible. They will reveal themselves to be violent, intolerant, opposed to free speech, the insane enforcers of political correctness, etc.”
Some right-wing groups, such as Gavin Mcinnes’ Proud Boys, have had a hard time reconciling their shared goals with the protest and who exactly is involved (such as the KKK). The Proud Boys initially disavowed the event by saying, “So here’s the deal Proud Boys, if you want to go to the rally, I can’t stop you. […] Remember, we don’t allow racists in Proud Boys, if you decide to rub elbows with those people, you very well could find yourself being disavowed next time.”
The previous excerpt of the original article was quickly removed and replaced with a less insulting memo to the Proud Boys that they could attend at their own discretion.
Matt Parrott, founding member of Traditionalist Youth Network (TradYouth), says the event is not about race, and that people won’t be attending a “racist” event. “While our organization and a couple others in attendance are indeed pro-White, the event’s not about race. It’s about freedom of speech and defending our historical monuments…both the leader and TradWorker members will stay on message, welcoming and supporting non-identitarian and non-White allies at the event,” said Parrott.
Both sides of the protest have a clear message. One side wants to protect a perceived history under fire, and the other wants to combat and amend perceived racial injustice: two goals which garner vehement support from both sides.
This is a developing story. WUVA’s Jackson Kosmacki will have more on how the confrontation plays out at the Unite the Right rally on Sunday.