“What brings us together is that we are white, we are a people, we will not be replaced,” intoned Richard Spencer, the man who coined the term “alt-right,” at rallies Saturday near a contentious statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Va. As the Daily Progress reports, the second rally was attended by several dozen protesters carrying torches and chanting, “Russia is our friend,” “you will not replace us,” and “blood and soil.” Police broke up that protest within about 10 minutes after an altercation broke out; Spencer tweeted a photo of himself from the scene, captioned simply “#torchlight.” At issue: The city of Charlottesville’s decision to sell the statue of Lee, though a judge has since ordered an injunction preventing any sale for six months.
The town is familiar ground for Spencer, who the Washington Post notes attended the University of Virginia. The protests were attacked by Virginia gubernatorial candidate Tom Perriello, who started a back-and-forth when he tweeted, “Get your white supremacist hate out of my hometown.” “We won, you lost, little Tommy,” retorted Spencer. “Actually, you lost,” responded Perriello. “In 1865. 150 years later, you’re still not over it.”
Mayor Mike Signer has issued a statement likening the event to a KKK demonstration.
The group congregated in Lee Park by a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, which is slated to be removed from the premises later this year following a February city council vote. Earlier in the day, protestors had also gathered at nearby Jackson Park, voicing their commitment to protecting what they called their “white heritage.”
Chants of “blood and soil” broke out just after 9 PM. The German-originated expression, popularized in the Nazi era, refers to an ideology of “ethnic purity” based on blood descent and territory.
After about ten minutes of activity, Charlottesville police intervened, and the crowd extinguished their torches and dispersed. Law enforcement had also broken up the Jackson Park protest hours earlier with relative ease, although intervention there followed rowdier arguments and scuffles.
“This event involving torches at night in Lee Park was either profoundly ignorant or was designed to instill fear in our minority populations in a way that hearkens back to the days of the KKK,” Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer said in a statement.
At Jackson Park, some demonstrators spoke to press. “We’re not white supremacists,” said protestor Orry Von Dize. “We are simply just white people that love our heritage, our culture, our European identity.”
In attendance was infamous white supremacist Richard Spencer, who shared a photo of himself holding a torch. On Sunday, he mocked a reporter who called out the event: “Glad you enjoyed it,” he tweeted. Spencer, a Nazi sympathizer who claims he created the “alt-right” movement, made headlines in January 2017 when he was punched in the face on live TV.