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.
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