Neo-Nazis Clarify Confederate Monument Debate for Richmond

This morning I am bracing for the steady stream of photographs and videos that will soon litter my social media feeds from my former home of Charlottesville, Virginia. As most of you know a neo-Nazi rally is planned for Emancipation (formerly Lee) Park to protest the planned removal of the Robert E. Lee Monument. Last night an unscheduled rally took place on the campus of the University of Virginia around a statue of the man who believed that the black and white races could never live peacefully together.

My hope is that the rally will remain peaceful, but I am under no illusions given the history of violence that these monuments represent. Lee himself fought a war to ensure that a slave based system built on white supremacy would have a future.

They city of Charlottesville will survive this and any future rallies planned. I suspect that it will have no impact on the eventual outcome surrounding the monument itself. As I understand it the courts will determine its future. Beyond that, the city will continue to make the necessary changes to its commemorative landscape that help the community address old wounds and perhaps even take a step forward.

I am more interested in the likely impact that this weekend’s events will have on Richmond’s current debate about its Confederate monuments. The mayor tasked its Monument Avenue Commission with engaging the public to find a middle-of-the-road solution that stopped short of removal. By all reports that agenda was not embraced by many of the people who attended the commission’s first public forum.

Some have expressed disappointment at the attendees, who quickly lined up on both sides of the question of removal. The mayor, however, should take some responsibility for believing that framing this issue in any other way was possible. He miscalculated. Perhaps his mandate was a political move to take the issue of removal off the table, at least for the remainder of his term.

Regardless of the reason, the rallies in Charlottesville and elsewhere are evidence that a moderate course is unlikely to be embraced by those who are most invested. For many, the embrace of the white supremacist legacy of Confederate iconography by neo-Nazi organizations has clarified their position and rightfully so.

Commission members heard exactly what they should have expected to hear the other night, but more importantly, they heard what they needed to hear. Today’s rally will likely further divide the Richmond community and embolden those on both sides of the monument debate. I still think there is an opportunity to engage the general public in a productive manner. The commission includes some very talented people, but I suspect that they (in consultation with the mayor) will have to re-think their mandate.

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15 comments… add one
  • Barbara Gannon Aug 12, 2017

    The monuments will be gone in many places. Best case scenario removed to museums, if they will have them. Civil War memory has little to do with history. Its always about the “now.” The now demands they go where people want them gone. Once that happens, nothing changes in the Now, an empty space on the green.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 12, 2017

      Exactly.

  • Annette Jackson Aug 12, 2017

    I can hardly wait to move out of Virginia and out of the south all together. 18 years here is 18 years too many, although I know the mentality of the alt=right is not confined to this part of the country. In 2017 we should have gotten over this crap!
    Trump’s election has emboldened many of the racists.

  • Annette Jackson Aug 12, 2017

    The neo-Nazi white racists out in Charlottesville are screaming about Jews and gays as they are dispersed by the local police and the governor. And Trump’s Twittering is “mysteriously” silent.

  • Annette Jackson Aug 12, 2017

    Apparently Trump has now made a Tweet and will be making a statement at 3 p.m.

  • Eric Koszyk Aug 12, 2017

    Charlottesville is a beautiful city. I’m very saddened by the violence and the death that has occurred there. I am hoping that tonight remains relatively calm. I hope that the mayor and the governor declare a curfew and that the police and National Guard are out in force.

  • Eric Koszyk Aug 12, 2017

    The mayor of Lexington is speeding up plans to remove Confederate statues in the wake of Charlottesville.

    http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/346360-lexington-mayor-announces-removal-of-confederate-statues-in

    • Kevin Levin Aug 13, 2017

      I suspect others will follow as well.

  • Matt McKeon Aug 12, 2017

    KIller has been arrested, charged with 2nd degree murder. Curfew declared by mayor. Two Virginia state police killed in copter crash.

  • brianschoeneman Aug 13, 2017

    Removal isn’t an option. It’s barred under state law. Mayor Stoney didn’t really have any other choice if he wanted to address this issue.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 14, 2017

      Isn’t this issue with the courts as we speak?

      • brianschoeneman Aug 14, 2017

        Yes – with an injunction granted to bar Charlottesville from removing their statue. The injunction wouldn’t have been granted if it wasn’t likely plaintiff’s would succeed on the merits.

        This has always been political theater.

        • Kevin Levin Aug 14, 2017

          The broader and more important questions to me are “political theater” and never will be.

    • Bruce Vail Aug 14, 2017

      Stoney did the right thing, even if he is a dirty, union-loving Democrat.

      But seriously, the discussion has to be opened up to all the people of Richmond and not be dominated by a handful of enraged idealogues .

  • MLMartinez Aug 14, 2017

    Move them to museums. On the site of the former Lee statue. Install an impressive fountain.

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