Hundreds of protesters gathered for a “vigil against hate” on Sunday in Charlottesville, Virginia, one day after a smaller rally by white supremacists.
Hundreds of protesters gathered for a candlelit “vigil against hate” on Sunday night in Charlottesville, Virginia, one day after a smaller number of white supremacists carrying torches had rallied at the same spot — around a statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general, which the city council recently voted to remove.
Tonight #Charlottesville #Virginia rallied 2 denounce hate & white supremacy. Not in our town. Not in our country. #BlackLivesMatter #resist pic.twitter.com/hEe1y0NLxW— Ken Horne (@HorneKen) May 15, 2017
The anti-alt right candlelight vigil in #charlottesville tonight. pic.twitter.com/iMDU2BspAX— Aileen Bartels (@AileenBartels) May 15, 2017
Charlottesville’s mayor, Mike Signer, was among the city residents praising the counter-demonstration to “take back Lee Park.”
Candlelight vigil against hate in Cville. These are the kind of "torches" I like to see. pic.twitter.com/rGQ6GDgnKw— Mike Signer (@MikeSigner) May 15, 2017
Proud of my city tonight, thank you to all of the organizers tonight. @indivisibleVA05 @SURJ_Cville #charlottesville #candlelight #resist pic.twitter.com/Ui8eHcXnde— Guillermo Ubilla (@gxubilla) May 15, 2017
Allison Wrabel of Charlottesville’s Daily Progress reported that the protest on Sunday was larger than the gathering the night before.
There's definitely more people in Lee Park tonight than there was last night... pic.twitter.com/IEQKTBO1Co— Allison Wrabel (@craftypanda) May 15, 2017
Images and sound recorded by Wrabel on Saturday night showed the white supremacists holding torches and chanting, “Russia is our friend” and “You will not replace us,” which is a white supremacist rallying cry.
Lee Park right now.... pic.twitter.com/WZ2x0JsueE— Allison Wrabel (@craftypanda) May 14, 2017
"Russia is our friend," in Lee Park. pic.twitter.com/uNKMoKRegF— Allison Wrabel (@craftypanda) May 14, 2017
In front of the Robert E. Lee statue pic.twitter.com/roWDjOOJGl— Allison Wrabel (@craftypanda) May 14, 2017
Another chant, “Blood and soil,” was an ethnic-nationalist slogan used by the Nazis. The pro-Russia chanting reflects the high regard many American white supremacists have for blond, blue-eyed Slavs.
Before the torches were lit, the rally on Saturday was addressed by Richard Spencer, the white supremacist Trump supporter who coined the term “alt-right” in an effort to rebrand nativist American racism. After Spencer shared video of his speech — to a handful of like-minded defenders of the Confederacy — the city’s mayor responded online.
@RichardBSpencer This garbage white supremacy won't even be a footnote in our history. #leave #resistance #welcomingcity.— Mike Signer (@MikeSigner) May 13, 2017
Later that night, Mayor Signer said in a statement that the torchlit rally around Lee’s statue “was either profoundly ignorant or was designed to instill fear in our minority populations in a way that hearkens back to the days of the KKK.”
Within hours, the mayor reported that he had become the target of anti-Semitic abuse from Trump-supporting Twitter accounts.
Here is what this great country faces in this age of @realDonaldTrump-a sitting mayor subjected to anti-Semitism. I will not be intimidated. https://t.co/S1PJRKgfvw— Mike Signer (@MikeSigner) May 14, 2017
Signer had in fact voted against removing the statue of Lee, arguing instead for an alternative proposal — to “transform in place,” and better explain “the racism and white supremacy of our past,” by creating “a magnificent new memorial to civil rights victories in Lee Park,” which would put the old monument to the Confederacy into a new context.
As images of the rally on Saturday night circulated online, others chose to confront the wannabe Nazis with simple mockery.
The only thing funnier than nazis sobbing over confederate monuments is that they came bearing citronella tiki torches. badass pic.twitter.com/yInUX8P0Uu— Chris Mohney (@chrismohney) May 14, 2017