Over the weekend, a group of protestors marched through Charlottesville, Virginia, then congregated in a public park carrying torches, outraged at the city's decision to sell a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, the Charlottesville Daily Progress reports.
According to NPR, alt-right poster boy Richard Spencer led the group during the day and was among them at Lee Park on Saturday night. There, the group surrounded the statue and shouted "Russia is our friend" and "you will not replace us," while many of the protestors held fire-lit torches before local police showed up and shut the whole thing down ten minutes later.
"This event involving torches at night in Lee Park 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," Mayor Mike Signer said in a statement on Facebook. "Either way, as mayor of this city, I want everyone to know this: We reject this intimidation. We are a welcoming city, but such intolerance is not welcome here."
In April, the Charlottesville city council joined other Southern municipalities in voting to get rid of some of its Confederate monuments. It also came up with a plan to rename its Lee and Jackson parks. But on May 2, a judge issued an injunction preventing the city from selling the Robert E. Lee statue for six months to hear a lawsuit brought against the city by some residents who are hoping to save it. According to a lawyer representing the plaintiffs in that suit, none of his clients were involved in the protest.
"We remain committed to preserving the Robert E. Lee Monument in its park through the legal process in the courts because of its historic and artistic value," attorney Elliott Harding told the Daily Progress. "We soundly and completely reject racism, white supremacy, and any other identity based groups that preach division and hate no matter which side of the issue they happen to support."
Like Charlottesville, New Orleans recently decided to remove four of its Confederate monuments last December, according to local radio station WWNO. City officials began the removal process in April, but were forced to work in the middle of the night and wear flak jackets and helmets after receiving death threats from outraged citizens, NPR reports. Southern heritage groups have come to condemn these removal decisions, arguing that it strips the country of an important piece of its heritage.
"The ISIS-like effort to erase history and culture should be a crime," the Sons of Confederate Veterans said in a statement, "but when the anarchist [sic] and Marxists control the government then 'New Orleans' is what we get."