White Supremacists Carrying Tiki Torches Riot in Charlottesville
A gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia, dubbed “Unite the Right” has drawn to the city members of the nation’s largest neo-Nazi group and other hate groups. They come to protest the removal of a General Robert E. Lee statue from Emancipation Park. Lee was the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War. Recently, there has been a movement to stop glorifying those who fought on the pro-slavery side of a war which tore the United States asunder from 1861 to 1865 (see “The Confederacy Falls… Again” in the July issue).
In defending the statue, the groups claim to be protecting “free speech and our heritage.” A quick look at the history of these groups makes it clear the speech they want to preserve is that of hate and the heritage is that of bigotry and oppression against African Americans and other minorities. The Supreme Court has, again and again, upheld the right of free speech, even when that speech is repugnant. These alt-right—to use the white washed term which seeks to normalize their racism—groups seek not to protect free speech but to make acceptable their message of intolerance.
The Riot Began Hours Before
The rally to save the statue was set to begin at noon on Saturday, August 12, 2017, but clashes erupted hours before. People wearing helmets and carrying bats and clubs fought with one another in the streets, while law enforcement did little to intervene. Carrying mosquito-repelling tiki torches, protesters gathered on the campus of the University of Virginia, chanting “end immigration/one people, one nation” and “white lives matter.” This gathering broke up when counter-protesters faced off against the protesters. The unrest prompted city, county, and commonwealth officials to declare a state of emergency. Soon thereafter, police determined the assembly at the park to be unlawful and ordered the crowd to disperse. Dressed in riot gear, they marched on the scene.
Politicians Speak Out
Politicians from both sides of the aisle spoke out against the violence. President Trump tweeted, “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!” Rep. Don Beyer (Democrat-Virginia) tweeted, “White supremacists chanting Nazi slogans aren’t Virginia or America. They are weak, ignorant, fearful people with citronella tiki torches.”