More than 60 protesters marched from the University of Virginia Rotunda to Lee Park, walking alongside traffic and several police officers, to mount a “community defense against all forms of fascism,” according to the Black and Third World Alliance for Community Defense.
The protesters, including members of the group and Showing Up for Racial Justice, began to gather at 4 p.m. and left the Rotunda at 5:30 p.m., moving through the eastbound lane of University Avenue and West Main Street on the way to Lee Park.
Charlottesville police issued summonses to three people for blocking the roads, according to Lt. Steve Upman. He said he personally did not know about the march in advance, though officers were present at various points in the march’s path.
Once at Lee Park, the protesters hung a banner reading “Community Defense Against All Forms of Fascism” on the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, which has been the center of increasing tensions between various factions of the community. City Council has voted to sell the statue, but a judge issued a temporary injunction to prevent its removal.
On May 13, a group led in part by Richard Spencer, president of the white nationalist National Policy Institute and a leader of the so-called “alt-right” movement, held a torch-lit rally at the foot of the statue. Since then, several counter-protests have been held in Lee Park.
The tension has moved onto the Downtown Mall, as well. On May 20, several people were seen yelling and chanting at a group of men at an outdoor seating area. Veronica Fitzhugh, who was reportedly with the group, was later charged with misdemeanor assault after she allegedly called the men Nazis and told them to leave the Downtown Mall.
And on Thursday, a confrontation between social-justice activists and a group that included right-wing blogger Jason Kessler grew heated outside of Miller’s Downtown. Following the incident, Jeff Fogel, a candidate for city commonwealth’s attorney and an attorney who is representing Fitzhugh, was charged with simple assault, a misdemeanor, after a man alleged that Fogel lightly pushed him with an open hand.
The march Saturday was held in part to show solidarity with Fitzhugh, who thanked those who had joined her. Fogel also was in attendance.
“Her arrest continues his pattern of abusing the legal system to systematically target black anti-racism activists in our community,” Pam Starsia, a member of SURJ said Friday.
Starsia, who said she does not speak on behalf of SURJ, said Fitzhugh is being targeted by Kessler, as well as Charlottesville police, who, she said, sent six officers to arrest Fitzhugh. Fogel himself said that he was awakened by at least five officers when he was arrested at his home.
In a news release, Black and Third World Alliance for Community Defense said the protest was held “for community defense against all forms of fascism, in solidarity with Veronica Fitzhugh and other black women and femmes confronting white supremacy across the South.
“We are here to call on the predominantly white people of Charlottesville to put your bodies on the line and take risks to protect and defend people of color.”
The march wasn’t the only political march held Saturday. A local “March for Truth” rally, led by Indivisible Charlottesville, gathered on the Downtown Mall that morning as part of nationwide demonstrations calling for a transparent investigation into potential links between Russia and President Donald Trump’s campaign and administration.