Take 'Em Down - NOW!

IN THE WAR OF THE STATUES: ANTI-RACISTS 6, PRO-CONFEDERATES 0

Originally published in the Summer 2019 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 59, printed August 23. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Summer 2019 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.

Staff Report

In addition to promoting a backwards version of history, these pro-Confederates who turned out June 1 to “defend” the Lee statue also had trouble with their banner. Photo by Phil Wilayto.

For the sixth time since the deadly fascist gathering in nearby Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017, gun-toting, flag-waving pro-Confederates came to Richmond June 1 to rally in support of the Confederate statues on Monument Avenue. 

And for the sixth time, antiracist Richmonders turned out to shout them down. 

The rally, called by the tiny, Tennessee-based New Confederate States of America (CSA II), was held at the massive statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee, which has become a magnet for white supremacists and other supporters of the Lost Cause mythology. At 60 feet, it’s the tallest of the five Confederate statues on Monument Avenue and the only one owned by the state of Virginia, as opposed to the City of Richmond. 

The CSA II had their usual allies, the Virginia-based Dixie Defenders, but also some new supporters, like the Hiwaymen, a self-styled street-fighting group that was present in Charlottesville. 

The 26 pro-Confederates, including two small children, spread out on the sidewalk of the traffic circle where the Lee monument stands. On Monument Avenue’s medium strip across from the Confederate flag-wavers were 30 antiracists, including members of the Richmond chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America and the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality.

A few hours into the rally, the Defenders turned on a portable sound system, placed the mic in front of the amplifier and let the resulting feedback screech out a siren-like howl in the direction of the Lee supporters, most of whom quickly moved out of the way of the blast. 

At 12:30 p.m., the antiracists began a press conference, chaired by activist Rachel Robinson, which featured an Open Letter to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam calling on him to honor his as-yet-unfulfilled 2017 election campaign promise to work to take down Virginia’s Confederate statues and other racist monuments. 

The letter (posted at DefendersFJE.blogspot. com) was signed by four longtime Richmond antiracist activists: Ana Edwards, Chair of the Defenders’ Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project; the Rev. Rodney Hunter, Pastor of Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church; Lynetta Thompson, State Advisor of the Youth Division of the VirginIa State Conference NAACP; and Phil Wilayto, Editor of The Virginia Defender newspaper. 

After the letter was read, it was an open mic. The first to speak was Goad Gatsby, one of the antiracists who was viciously attacked Aug. 11, 2017, by torch-wielding fascists on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville. Goad has been a mainstay of the anti-Confederate movement in Richmond. 

Categories: Take 'Em Down - NOW!

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