Richard Spencer, who in August led white nationalists and white supremacists in a torchlight march across the University of Virginia campus that touched off a weekend of deadly clashes, returned Saturday night to Charlottesville.
Spencer, a white nationalist, posted video on social media of followers carrying torches to the statue of Robert E. Lee, which the city has sought to remove.
The march coincided with the university’s celebration of its bicentennial.
“It was a planned flash mob,” Spencer said in an interview Saturday night. “It was a great success. We’ve been planning this for a long time.”
“We wanted to prove that we came in peace in May, we came in peace in August, and we come again in peace,” he said.
Their message, he said, is that, “Our identity matters. We are not going to stand by and allow people to tear down these symbols of our history and our people – and we’re going to do this again.”
Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer sent a tweet denouncing the march: “Another despicable visit by neo-Nazi cowards. You’re not welcome here! Go home! Meantime we’re looking at all our legal options. Stay tuned.”
Wes Gobar, the leader of the U-Va. Black Student Alliance, who was trying to finish a paper for class when he learned of the rally, said it was difficult balancing studies while bracing for the next burst of hatred that might seize Charlottesville. On Saturday, some members of his group knelt in protest during the National Anthem and the school’s “Good Old Song.”
Spencer, a U-Va. graduate, said he was unaware that the school was marking its bicentennial. They have been planning this “for a long time.”
WVIR-TV reported that Spencer and his group arrived at Emancipation Park about 7:45 p.m., and departed 15 minutes later.
The video Spencer posted show him and his crowd chanting, “You will not replace us”
They promised to keep returning to Charlottesville, which they argued had become symbolic of their right to speak and also had come to symbolize the tearing down of symbols of the nation’s history.
“You will not erase us.”
“We are about our heritage. Not just us Virginians. Not just as Southerners. But as white people . . . we’ll take a stand.
“You’ll have to get used to us.
“We’re going to come back again and again and again.”
Then they began singing about Dixie.
Officials with the Charlottesville police department did not immediately respond to requests for comment Saturday night.
Spokesmen for the University of Virginia did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The August march at U-Va. – with people chanting “Jews will not replace us!” – touched off violence between demonstrators and counterprotesters the next day. A man drove into a crowd, killing one woman and injuring others, and two police officers who were monitoring the protests died when their helicopter crashed.
In the days that followed, several public universities denied Spencer a platform.
Last week, the University of Florida reluctantly agreed it would allow Spencer to speak later this month, saying it had no choice because as a state institution, it must all expression of all viewpoints.
The university, in Gainesville, Florida, is charging the National Policy Institute, which Spencer leads, $10,000 to rent a campus facility and to provide security inside the university’s performing arts center.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Susan Svrluga