By ELEANOR HEDGES DUROY, age 14 and SOPHIA ROTHMAN, age 14
Candlelight vigil held on August 13 in Minneapolis, Minnesota to show solidarity with the counterprotestors who took a stand against hate in Charlottesville. Flickr / Fibonacci Blue
On August 11, groups of white nationalist and neo-Nazis assembled on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, Virginia at 8 a.m. to show their opposition to the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The rally began in Lee Square when white supremacist groups and Ku Klux Klan supporters lined up in rows side by side, carrying tiki torches and shouting “Unite the Right” and “You will not replace us!”
Counterprotesters had assembled around the statue, including activists with Black Lives Matter, an anti-fascist group also known as Antifa, local church members, religious leaders from many different faiths, Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and students, who all expressed their opposition to the racism that the supremacist groups represented.
On the second day of the rally, in an act of domestic terrorism, a gray car driven by a Nazi-sympathizer, James Alex Fields Jr., plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring another 34 people. Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, said, “She died doing what was right. My heart is broken, but I am forever proud of her.” Counterprotester Brandy Gonzalez said, “White supremacy did not win yesterday. . . We’re always going to be there to fight.”
Though President Trump claimed that Confederate statues should not be taken down because they represent Southern history, many historians disagree. In an interview with National Public Radio, Jane Daily, a history professor at the University of Chicago, explains, “Most of the people who were involved in erecting the monuments were not necessarily erecting a monument to the past… but were rather erecting them toward a white supremacist future.”
A recent study published by the Southern Poverty Law Center showed that construction of Confederate monuments peaked in the early 1900s and in the 1950s and 1960s. In the early 1900s the Jim Crow laws were put in place to oppress the rights of black citizens, while in the 1950s and 60s many white southerners were threatened by the rising civil rights movement.
The events that took place in Charlottesville this August resulted in many protests around the country. On August 15, college student Takiyah Johnson, brought down the Confederate Soldiers Monument at a protest in Durham, North Carolina. She did this by fastening a rope around the statue’s head and throwing the rope into the crowd of protesters. Johnson was later arrested for destruction of property.
Politicians like Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson are concerned that the statues are a public safety issue. Johnson said that these statues are becoming “rallying points” for white supremacists.
Elected leaders like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senator Cory Booker are now calling for the removal of Confederate monuments around the nation. Pelosi wants to remove the statues because of what they represent. “There is no room for the violent bigotry of the men of the Confederacy in the hallowed halls of the United States capitol or in places of honor across the country,” she said. Senator Booker claimed that the statues should be placed in museums. Instead of being honored, they would be given historical context there.
White nationalism / white supremacy: A social and political movement that centers white people and oppresses people of color.
Neo-Nazism: A movement created after World War II that seeks to continue the racist ideals of the Nazis.
Confederate: The side of the United States Civil War that represented the Southern states and slave owners.
Anti-fascism: A movement that opposes a central government that limits political freedoms and suppresses those who do not agree with it.