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Posted under: Race & Identity News

UVA Students Protest School's Charlottesville Response, Cover Thomas Jefferson Statue In Black Cloth

The protesters chanted, “No Trump, No KKK, no racist UVA!"

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Following Charlottesville, racial tensions have been high.

Part of the Unite the Right rally took place on the University of Virginia's campus. The night before the rally, many members of the alt-right took the the campus bearing torches, shouting Nazi slogans.

Photo: Mykal McEldowney
Photo: Mykal McEldowney

This week, several University of Virginia (UVA) students got together to express that they are definitely feeling some kind of way about Charlottesville, and about the way that their university has responded to that weekend's events.

The Daily Progress reports that about 100 UVA students, faculty and community members gathered around the school's rotunda to cover a Thomas Jefferson statue in a black shroud, mimicking the city of Charlottesville's shrouding of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson statues following the Unite the Right rally.

Jefferson was the founder of the University of Virginia. 

Photo: Zack Wajsgras
Photo: Zack Wajsgras

“One month ago, we stood on the front lines in downtown Charlottesville as all manner of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and neo-fascists swarmed the area,” said one speaker at the gathering. “Two months ago, the Ku Klux Klan rallied in their safe space, fully robed and fully protected by multiple law enforcement agencies who brutalized and tear gassed peaceful counter-protesters.”

Among the crowd were plenty of “Black Lives Matter” signs. Demonstrators borrowed the popular “No Trump, No KKK, no fascist USA” chant and replaced “fascist USA” with “racist UVA.”

Photo: Zack Wajsgras
Photo: Zack Wajsgras

The protesters also displayed a list of demands that include an increase African American undergraduate enrollment and black faculty, as well as a required course for all students on “white supremacy, colonization and slavery as they directly relate to Thomas Jefferson, the university and the city of Charlottesville.”

"The symbol of Thomas Jefferson is one that contradicts anti-hate," one of the gathering's speakers said.

“The same moderates who condemn the hate that came to Charlottesville one month ago, fetishize the legacy of Jefferson, and imagine him as our collective moral compass,” the speaker said. “We cannot create a hierarchy within white supremacy."

Photo: Zack Wajsgras
Photo: Zack Wajsgras

“We can and must condemn the violence of one month ago and simultaneously recognize Jefferson as a rapist, racist and slave owner,” she added. “The visibility of physical violence from white supremacists should not take our attention away from condemning and disrupting more ‘respectable’ racists that continue to control the structures that perpetuate institutional racism.”

Jefferson held around 600 slaves during his lifetime, and kept his slave, Sally Hemings, as what some call a mistress, and as what other call a sex slave. 

“I would like to frame this issue somewhat differently. Thomas Jefferson was an ardent believer in freedom of expression, and he experienced plenty of abusive treatment from the newspapers of his day. He would likely not be surprised to find that when there are critical disagreements in the polity, those disagreements will find expression at his University,” UVA president Teresa Sullivan wrote in a statement, according to the Augusta Free Press. “UVA’s importance as a university is underscored by the fact that arguments about free expression, hate speech and similar issues, occur here. Sometimes these arguments are noisy.”

Sullivan added that that she “strongly disagree[d]” with the students placing the shroud on the Jefferson statue. University officials have removed the shroud.


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