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Virginia Prepares For Violence At White Nationalist Rally To Prevent Removal Of The Statue of Robert E. Lee

White Nationalist rally
During a Ku Klux Klan rally last month in Charlottesville, Va., members of the KKK are escorted by police past a large group of protesters. The rally drew about 50 Klan members and about 1,000 counterprotesters. Steve Helber/AP

Thousands of protesters are expected to arrive in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday to take part in, or protest against, a White Nationalist rally. The rally is called to oppose plans to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a town park. The “Unite the Right” rally is expected to draw a good deal of people from out of town. It follows last month’s Ku Klux Klan rally that drew about 50 Klan members and roughly 1,000 counter-protesters.

It is not expected to be a quite weekend for people living around the University of Virginia. In a Facebook article, Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer wrote, “I’m beyond disgusted with this unsanctioned and despicable display of visual intimidation on a college campus.”

In the days leading up to the rally, there’d been some back and forth about where it could be held. City officials and police say they’re ready for any violence. Gov. Terry McAuliffe urged Virginians to Steer Clear of the rally and put the National Guard on standby. The guard released a statement saying it would “closely monitor the situation.

The Associated Press reports a federal judge has ordered Charlottesville to allow the rally to take place at its originally planned location downtown:

U.S. District Judge Glen Conrad issued a preliminary injunction Friday in a lawsuit filed against Charlottesville by right-wing blogger Jason Kessler.

“The city announced earlier this week that the rally must be moved out of Emancipation Park to a larger one, citing safety reasons.

“Kessler sued, saying the change was a free speech violation. The judge wrote that Kessler was likely to prevail and granted the injunction.”

After the ruling, The New York Times reports:

“Late Friday night, several hundred torch-bearing men and women marched on the main quadrangle of the University of Virginia’s grounds, shouting, “You will not replace us,” and “Jew will not replace us.” They walked around the Rotunda, the university’s signature building, and to a statue of Thomas Jefferson, where a group of counterprotesters were gathered, and a brawl ensued.”

University President Teresa Sullivan issued a statement after Friday night’s march.

“As President of the University of Virginia, I am deeply saddened and disturbed by the hateful behavior displayed by torch-bearing protestors that marched on our Grounds this evening. I strongly condemn the unprovoked assault on members of our community, including University personnel who were attempting to maintain order.

“Law enforcement continues to investigate the incident, and it is my hope that any individuals responsible for criminal acts are held accountable. The violence displayed on Grounds is intolerable and is entirely inconsistent with the University’s values.”

Earlier this week, All Things Considered, sponsor Airi Shapiro reported on Airbnb’s decision to make it tougher for people attending the rally to find places to stay.The company canceled the accounts of individuals that it affirmed had used its stage to reserve lodging for the event. It says those people today resist its community standards. Rally organizers say that this should be grounds for a suit.

A debate within the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville started when an African-American high school student began a petition over a year ago to have it removed. General Lee, who had been born in Virginia, controlled Confederate forces in the Civil War from 1862 until he surrendered in 1865.

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