An estimated 100 protesters littered the grounds surrounding the Thomas Jefferson statue at the University of Virginia (UVA) Tuesday night to show strength behind a list of demands the Black Student Alliance gave to the university in August in response to the now infamous “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.
More than 100 students, residents, and faculty members joined the protest, chanting, “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist UVA!” as they circled the statue which they adorned with a sign, reading, “TJ is a racist and rapist” and covered the university founder’s statue with a black tarp. “Black Lives Matter” banners laid draped on nearby bushes and stone partitions as a testament to the only lives that seem to matter in today’s frail and toxic university climate.
The demands listed on the “March to Reclaim Our Grounds” ultimatum notice come across as derisive to white people while elevating the standing of blacks, and include, the removal of Confederate statues from the school grounds, the university denouncing white supremacy, and increasing the number of blacks admitted to the university.
The group makes special name-drops to have the university denounce and ban both Richard Spencer and UVA alumni Jason Kessler because “they’ve already incited and perpetrated enough violence against students past the point of free speech.”
“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,” a speaker said to the crowd. “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.”
“With every new horror that arises each month, each day, there has been an unparalleled resistance of people who say no to white supremacy, no to fascism, no to all forms of oppression,” the speaker continued. “And we recognize and honor the fact that this resistance was not born ten months ago, but has actually lived for many years: communities of color in Charlottesville fighting for affordable housing, for a living wage, for an end to police brutality and state-sanctioned violence, for education for all.”
The group, which labeled the Jefferson statue “an emblem of white supremacy” that needs to be “re-contextualized with a plaque to include that history,” also demanded the Confederate plaques on the Rotunda be removed. They’re demanding the school balance the “historical landscape” and state “buildings named after prominent white supremacists, eugenicists, or slaveholders should be renamed after people of marginalized groups.”
Although the demand note stated the university must also ban “white supremacist hate groups” from campus, there is no mention of a need to ban black hate groups, such as Black Lives Matter or other people of color hate groups.
It further cites statistics showing a 6.4 percent enrollment of blacks compared to the state demographics of 12 percent blacks, and emphasizes the obligation of the university to motivate blacks to enroll in the college through the issuance of a “strategic and actionable diversity plan, with input sourced from minority student leadership.” They also complain of not having enough black teachers at 3 percent.
UVA President Teresa Sullivan put out a statement condemning the shrouding of the Jefferson statue, writing in the statement that the protesters were “desecrating” ground that “many of us consider sacred.”
She also noted Jefferson’s “many contributions to the progress of the early American Republic: he served as the third President of the United States, championed religious freedom, and authored the Declaration of Independence.”
She conveyed that the university has “acknowledged its controversial history,” and said there is “more work to be done.”