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Chaos in Charlottesville

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Imagine young Jewish children playing in a park named after Hitler. It seems wrong, doesn’t it?

This, of course, does not happen in Germany because it is illegal to publicly display any symbol relating to the Nazi party. However, in America black children frequently play in the “Lee” and “Jackson” parks of Virginia and other places.This is because the meaning of these monuments is not entirely clear: while many argue that Confederate monuments symbolize messages of racism and hate, others would disagree, saying that they are historical monuments meant to remember how present-day America came to be. Recently, the removal of Confederate monuments has stirred up an immense amount of controversy, coming to a head in Charlottesville,Virginia.

In February, the Charlottesville City Council voted to remove a statue of Confederate war hero Robert E. Lee from the Robert E. Lee Park (later renamed Emancipation Park).This decision quickly ignited retaliation, and within the next few months groups were arguing that the removal of the statue would go against certain state laws that ban cities that attempt to “interfere” with historic monuments and memorials.This law had previously stopped Confederate statue removal attempts in Alexandria and Loudoun County.

On August 11th, a violent march took place on the University of Virginia’s campus. Several hundred men and women carrying torches and shouting “You will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us,” marched around the university’s signature building and to a Thomas Jefferson statue, where they were met by a group of counter protesters.A brawl quickly transpired and the police struggled to contain the violence.

This controversy continued into the next day, and ultimately reached its climax at the “Unite the Right” rally, led by Jason Kessler, which was created to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue. This rally took place in Emancipation Park and was scheduled to start at noon, but protesters showed up hours before to march. Members of this protest included white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, neo-Nazis and various militias.These marchers carried all types of racist banners and were chanting things like “white lives matter” throughout the entirety of the rally.

Violence ensued shortly after the start of the protest, and law enforcement declared the gathering as an “unlawful assembly,” while Virginia’s governor,Terry McAuliffe, declared a “state of emergency.” Approximately half an hour later, a car rammed into a group of counter protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman named Heather Heyer, and injuring around 19 others. Police quickly arrested James Alexander Fields and three others after connecting them to Heyer’s death.The unprecedented violence that took place on this day galvanized people to take action and sparked emotional responses from all over the country.

The question that initiated this con ict still stands: is it appropriate to honor those who seceded from the United States and supported our nation’s most shameful institution, slavery? There are certainly arguments for both sides.While some may think it is entirely disrespectful to showcase these people, de- spite their military prowess, others may argue that the statues are not necessarily meant to symbolize the reasons behind the war. This perspective would likely reason that the statues are meant to recognize people who showed immense bravery and military expertise.

The statues have been up for a long time and removing them might arguably be discrediting history—it is meant to make Americans remember their past.The Civil War was a significant event in American history, so some might assert that trying to erase all memories of the war is not a solution either. In order to avoid similar mistakes in the future, we must remember the past.
The violence that transpired in Charlottesville was completely unwarranted and appalling. While there are arguments for both removing and retaining the statue, the Unite the Right rally brought forth crowds of racist and passionate people, many of them carrying rearms, who ultimately created a violent environment. However, while the majority of the protesters at the Unite the Right rally were white supremacists and their racist views don’t necessarily symbolize the ideals of many other people who wish to preserve the statues, there is still a fairly large percentage of people who want to keep them up, for varying reasons.

This issue of white supremacy clearly runs deep in America and the recent events in Charlottesville and many other places have certainly put it in a spotlight. Although the original intent of these Confederate statues was likely to honor the men who fought in the Civil War, to some people, the statues have come to represent the racism that was especially prevalent throughout this period.

As a free society, the American people must continue debating this issue until a solution or compromise can be agreed upon. Every voice deserves to be heard as there are wide-spanning opinions on the topic and ultimately the recurring debates will help society progress.

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