I’ve Been Told I Will Be Hung From This Statue

Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down, of to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee Trump-in-confederate-flag-jacketto another name. So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop? You are changing history, you’re changing culture. If you look, they were people protesting very quietly the taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee. A lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest.

Jefferson Davis Mongo

President Trump, by asking, ‘Where does this all end’—Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln—connects with the American people about their history, culture and traditions. The race-identity politics of the left wants to say it’s all racist. Just give me more. Tear down more statues. Say the revolution is coming. I can’t get enough of it.

The Nazi

Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson—who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!

Mongo, Grand Dragon

In the middle of Emancipation Park in Charlottesville on Saturday, two young women, one white and one black, took each other’s hands and held them tightly, and with their other hands they gripped the steel barrier in front of them.

A few feet away, a young white man with a buzzed haircut and sunglasses leaned towards them over a facing barrier. “You’ll be on the first fucking boat home,” he screamed at the black woman, before turning to the white woman. “And as for you, you’re going straight to hell,” he said. Then he gave a Nazi salute.

For the third time in a few months, white nationalists had descended on the small, liberal city of Charlottesville in the southern state of Virginia, to protest KKK_in_South_Caroagainst the planned removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E Lee.

In a column they surged into the park, using sticks and their fists to shove aside anti-fascist counter-protesters. Then they blocked off the entrance with shields. Inside, David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, grinned and waved as the crowd, almost entirely white and male, cheered him on, chanting his name and putting their arms up in Nazi salutes.

They had reason to be pleased. They were in the middle of the largest gathering of white nationalists in America for decades.

Twenty-four hours earlier, Reverend Brenda Brown-Grooms closed her eyes and prayed for peace. Sitting in a side room at St Paul’s Memorial Church, while volunteers undertook non-violent resistance training next door, she prepared herself for a “reckoning” the following day in her home town.

“This is physically a very beautiful place, it has always been my template for what a city should look like,” she said. “But I’ve always understood that this beautiful place is also quite ugly. And the statue has become the match point for that ugliness.”

Reverend Brown-Grooms was born in Charlottesville in 1955. She grew up in Vinegar Hill, a black neighbourhood since razed to the ground in one of a series of redevelopment programmes that pushed _97365119_2017-08-1115.48.58the black community out of the city and into housing projects.

As a girl, under segregation, she did not dare set foot in the white neighbourhood which was home to Emancipation Park—then Lee Park—and she had never been there until May, when the KKK came to town and lit torches under the statue.

“This summer has been one long prayer here in Charlottesville,” she said.

About 200 white nationalists gathered after dark in Nameless Field, down the road from where she sat, and marched through the University of Virginia campus holding torches. They chanted “Blood and soil”—an old Nazi slogan —and “Jews will not replace us”.

The air was hot from the torches and acrid from smoke. “The heat here is nothing compared to what you’re going to get in the ovens,” shouted Robert Ray, a writer for the white supremacist website Daily Stormer. “It’s coming,” he spat.

Standing in the middle of Emancipation Park on Friday, looking up at the statue of Robert E Lee, was the city’s deputy mayor, Wes Bellamy.

Mr Bellamy is the first black deputy mayor of the city. A sharply-dressed, outgoing character, emphatic in his desire to see the statue removed—”155%”—he has become a lightning rod for people who believe their heritage is being torn up.

“I get hate mail and death threats every day. I’ve _97365121_2017-08-1117.53.31been told I will be hung from this statue. I’ve been told I will be hung from the trees in this park,” he said.

“But that lets you know what you’re doing is right. How can you have a 28ft statue to a man who, if he were alive today, I would not be allowed to look in the eye? Who, if he were walking down the street, would make me walk off the sidewalk? How can we have that statue here, if we are to be an equitable city?”

Mr Bellamy stopped in the park to speak to residents, who congratulated him on passing his doctorate that day, and to local police officers, some of whom he knew by name. Then he headed off, under strict instructions from police, as the white nationalists came into town, to keep his whereabouts on Saturday a secret.

Joel Gunter

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August 2017

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