Rally to remove Robert E. Lee statue brings flagwavers

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Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy addresses a crowd of those who support removing the Robert E. Lee statue at Lee Park and those who called him racist believe it should stay. Staff photo Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy addresses a crowd of those who support removing the Robert E. Lee statue at Lee Park and those who called him racist believe it should stay. Staff photo

Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy’s March 22 press conference at Lee Park to advocate removing the General Robert E. Lee statue and changing the name of the park drew Confederate supporters such as Virginia Flaggers, who at times shouted down speakers.

“When people come to this park, they should never feel uncomfortable,” said Charlottesville High School ninth-grader Zyahna Bryant after Bellamy introduced her as a “15-year-old warrior.” She has helped spearhead the movement to rid the park of its ties to slavery and the commander of the Confederate army. “We are in 2016,” she said. “Things have changed, and they are going to change.”

Protesters overpowered the voice of Amy Sarah Marshall, who said, “I’m speaking as a gay activist. Throw that in your truck and drive it.” Several members of the crowd joined Marshall behind the podium when she became emotional.

When City Councillor Kristin Szakos took the microphone, a group of supporters lined up in the front of the crowd to block out the cries from protesters.

While a mass of men and women waved Confederate flags and held signs supporting the historic statue, some cupped hands over their mouths and yelled into the crowd statements such as, “What about the white slaves?” and “Heritage not hate!” Several protesters called Bellamy racist. At least four uniformed Charlottesville police officers guarded the park.

Mayor Mike Signer has called for the creation of a “blue ribbon commission on Confederate memorials” to evaluate the presence of Confederate statues in the city.

Click to enlarge additional photos below.

 

A diverse group attended the conference.
A diverse group attended the conference.
One supporter of tearing the statue down brought her own sign.
One supporter of tearing the statue down waves a “Black Lives Matter” sign.
Many people came out to Wes Bellamy’s March 22 press conference in which he advocated removing the General Robert E. Lee statue from Lee Park. He also wants to change the park’s name.
Zyahna Bryant, a 15-year-old ninth grader at Charlottesville High School, says people walking by the park shouldn't have to feel uncomfortable.
Zyahna Bryant, a 15-year-old ninth grader at Charlottesville High School, says people walking by the park shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable.
lee-amy-sarah-marshall
When Amy Sarah Marshall became emotional while speaking, a group of people from the crowd came forward to stand by her side.
Some Confederate supporters belong to the local group called Virginia Flaggers.
Some Confederate supporters belong to the group called Virginia Flaggers.
Wes Bellamy and local radio personality Rob Schilling take a quick selfie in front of the Robert E. Lee statue before the press conference.
Wes Bellamy and local radio personality Rob Schilling take a quick selfie in front of the Robert E. Lee statue before the press conference.

 

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