Chanting “F*** White Supremacy” and “Black Lives Matter,” the activists covered up the statue of one of America’s founding fathers on Tuesday evening.
Protesters shroud and surround Jefferson statue following protest at Carr's Hill https://t.co/GghzjeXdM1pic.twitter.com/njmnBtOTlX— The Cavalier Daily (@cavalierdaily) September 13, 2017
A cardboard sign held up against the shrouded figure by one of the protesters read “TJ is a racist rapist,” a reference to Jefferson being a slave owner who allegedly raped his domestic slave Sally Hemmings.
Protestors surround shrouded statue of Thomas Jefferson pic.twitter.com/oEkoM5jGCO— The Cavalier Daily (@cavalierdaily) September 13, 2017
A white sheet left draped on the Rotunda read “Black Lives Matter F*** White Supremacy.” A sign at the base of the pedestal read, “No Nazi,” while another had a drawing of a statue being removed, with the caption, “Tear ‘Em Down.”
Tuesday night’s demonstration, held in pouring rain, was at the same site that a month ago became the rallying point for a white nationalist ‘Unite the Right’ rally, according to Richmond Times Dispatch.
“It was done as a solidarity action with Charlottesville after the events that transpired on August 11 and August 12,” senior Anelle Mensah told the UVA student paper, the Cavalier Daily. “It was to commemorate and honor the students and the community members that were here surrounding the statue on August 11, and the folks that were severely injured, the folks that died – such as Heather Heyer – on August 12.”
The protest has cleared, but the shroud on the Thomas Jefferson statue at the Rotunda remains. pic.twitter.com/BqYtCEtH5q— Alexis Gravely (@_AlexisWasHere) September 13, 2017
One student said the rally was not organized by one specific group and that many of the attendees were from a variety of organizations.
Some students have been critical about University president Teresa Sullivan’s perceived inaction on the night of August 11, when white nationalists marched through the UVA campus chanting and carrying tiki torches.
Cavalier Daily poll reveals 59% of U.Va. students agree with @BSAatUVA demandshttps://t.co/wiQAaiUsEHpic.twitter.com/crqxXrYizY— The Cavalier Daily (@cavalierdaily) September 13, 2017
After the statue was shrouded, tensions rose when counter-protesters began to take pictures of the event. The Cavalier Daily reported that university police were observed disarming a man who had a firearm. He was apparently handcuffed and escorted out of the area and into a police car.
The protesters presented a list of ten demands to the university administration, including the removal of“Confederate plaques” from the Rotunda, and requiring classes on “white supremacy, colonization, and slavery as they directly relate to Thomas Jefferson, the University, and the city of Charlottesville,”WVIR-TV reported.
Another demand was that the university re-invest a $1,000 donation received from the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in 1921, “adjusted for inflation, into existing UVa and Charlottesville multicultural Organizations.”
Students also demanded that the number of African-American students, currently at 6.4 percent, be boosted to 19.6 percent to reflect the state demographics. A similar demand was made in terms of African-American professors.
The Jefferson statue represents white supremacy and needs to be “re-contextualized,” the activists said, while other buildings on campus “named after prominent white supremacists, eugenicists, or slaveholders should be renamed after people of marginalized groups.”
Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence of the thirteen colonies in 1776, and served as the third president of the United States (1801-1809). He also founded the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and the layout he created for the school has become a model for almost all US universities since.
Kevin Westfield, a junior, said he believed that certain aspect of history, such as Jefferson’s legacy should be studied ‒ but not cherished.
“Let’s really talk about the history and the heritage that you’re holding onto so proudly,” Westfield told the Cavalier. “If we can really analyze that and look at it with a critical lens, then that sounds like an amazing things for us to facilitate – but if we’re not going to do that, and we’re just going to have it on this super beautifully ambiguous display that says nothing, that has a single narrative, that doesn’t really say anything… Then what heritage are you holding on to? You’re holding on to a false narrative.”
Several people eventually took down the shroud.
The Republican Party of Virginia condemned the activists.
“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. The defacing of our historical monuments is not free speech, it is a criminal offense, plain and simple,” party chairman John Whitbeck said in a statement. “We cannot tolerate lawlessness and extreme political correctness masking as free speech any longer.”