Dozens of protesters gathered at the University of Virginia this week and denounced white supremacy by shrouding a statue of slave owner and founding father Thomas Jefferson.
Close to 100 demonstrators turned out to the campus Tuesday, Sept. 12, exactly one month after a group of white supremacists and counter-protesters clashed at a rally in Charlottesville, Va., that left one woman dead and 19 others badly injured.
Around 8 p.m., students, faculty and community members alike marched and carried signs reading “Black Lives Matter,” NBC 29 reported. The protesters were also heard chanting “No Trump, no KKK, no racist UVA.”
After covering the Jefferson statue with a large black tarp, three students climbed atop it and unfurled a sign that read “TJ is a racist and a rapist.” Meanwhile, down below, group members read their list of demands, which included removing Confederate plaques on the rotunda, banning white supremacists/hate groups from campus and denouncing UVA alums Jason Kessler and Richard Spencer. Both men helped organize the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.
“We thought that shrouding Thomas Jefferson would be great symbolic action to address the fact that white supremacists saw that statue as a rallying point on the 11th,” Ken King, a fourth-year student who participated in the shrouding, told the news station.
One person unaffiliated with the protest was arrested for public intoxication, according to NBC 29. Someone also managed to remove the covering overnight.
UVA President Teresa Sullivan issued a statement on the protest Wednesday, saying she didn’t agree with the demonstrators’ actions
“I strongly disagree with the protestors’ decision to cover the Jefferson statue,” she wrote. “I also recognize the rights of those present at the protest to express their emotions and opinions regarding the recent horrific events that occurred on our Grounds and in Charlottesville.”
“Our community continues to heal, and we must remain respectful of one another if substantive progress can be made on addressing the many challenges and opportunities that we all face,” she added.
State officials including Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Republican Party of Virginia Chairman John Whitbeck also weighed in on the matter, with Kaine saying the “university is doing some good listening” with regards to addressing the university’s dark past and Jefferson’s role in it. (He founded UVA.) Whitbeck, on the other hand, slammed the protesters for their demonstration.
“The vandalism of the Thomas Jefferson statue at the University of Virginia is the next step in the extreme left’s movement to erase our history,” he said in a statement. “The defacing of our historical monuments is not free speech, it is a criminal offense, plain and simple.”
As for Sullivan’s response, students with the group UVA Students United said it was “very divisive” and made them feel unsupported. Their demands will be presented at the school’s Board of Visitors meeting on Friday, Sept. 15, according to the news station.