University of Virginia: Protesters Shroud Jefferson Statue


U.Va. President Teresa Sullivan: Protesters who shrouded Jefferson statue were 'desecrating' sacred ground


CDP 913 Jefferson statue covered 105.JPG

University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan on Wednesday rebuked protesters who shrouded a statue of Thomas Jefferson on the north side of the school’s Rotunda on Tuesday night, saying they were “desecrating ground that many of us consider sacred.”

“I strongly disagree with the protesters’ decision to cover the Jefferson statue,” Sullivan wrote in an email to alumni.

Protesters at the Rotunda covered the U.Va. founder’s statue in black on the one-month anniversary of the white nationalist rally Aug. 12 that led to the death of Heather Heyer, a protester against racism.

The latest development — coupled with a Confederate heritage group’s planned demonstration Saturday at Richmond’s Robert E. Lee monument in defiance of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s temporary ban — stoked anew an issue that continues to ripple through Virginia’s race for governor about eight weeks ahead of the election.

The Republican Party of Virginia on Wednesday urged U.Va. to prevent the “defacing” of historical monuments.

“The vandalism of the Thomas Jefferson statue at the University of Virginia is the next step in the extreme left’s movement to erase our history,” John Whitbeck, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, said in a statement.

Ralph Northam, the Democratic nominee for governor, issued a mild criticism of the protesters. “There are more appropriate ways to have a discussion about our complex history,” he tweeted Wednesday afternoon. “Let’s be civil and respect each other.”

Sullivan said that university personnel removed the shroud and that one person was arrested Tuesday night on a charge of public intoxication. The Daily Progress reported that university police arrested Brian Lambert of Charlottesville on the public intoxication charge. Authorities said Lambert, who is not affiliated with the school, was legally open-carrying a firearm.

In her message to alumni, Sullivan alluded to white nationalists’ torchlit march on the U.Va. campus the night before the Unite the Right rally.

“Coming just one month after the August 11 torchlight march by 300 racist and anti-Semitic protesters, a march that became violent, this event has reminded us that there are critical and sometimes divisive issues related to the exercise of free expression in an inclusive community,” Sullivan wrote.

Sullivan said Jefferson “was an ardent believer in freedom of expression, and he experienced plenty of abusive treatment from the newspapers of his day.” Jefferson likely would not be surprised to find expressions about “critical disagreements in the polity” at U.Va., Sullivan added.

Sullivan said many alumni “experienced protests and activism” during their college days at U.Va.

“I prefer the process of discussion and debate,” she said, adding that “the debate is happening here” at U.Va. “That there is also activism should not be a surprise to any of us.”

Protesters who climbed the Jefferson statue Tuesday night added signs that referred to Jefferson as a “racist” and a “rapist.”

In a separate statement to the university community Wednesday, Sullivan noted that Jefferson owned slaves.

She wrote that Jefferson “made many contributions to the progress of the early American Republic: he served as the third president of the United States, championed religious freedom, and authored the Declaration of Independence.”

She added: “In apparent contradiction to his persuasive arguments for liberty and human rights, however, he was also a slave owner.”

Sullivan note, “In its early days the University of Virginia was dependent upon the institution of slavery. Enslaved people not only built its buildings, but also served in a wide variety of capacities for U.Va.’s first fifty years of existence. After gaining freedom, African Americans continued to work for the university, but they were not allowed to enroll as students until the mid-twentieth century.”

Whitbeck, chairman of the state GOP, said in his statement that “the defacing of our historical monuments is not free speech, it is a criminal offense, plain and simple.”

There have been no reports that the protesters damaged the Jefferson statue.

On Tuesday, Virginia Military Institute announced that it is keeping its Confederate statues, including one of Stonewall Jackson, who served on the school’s faculty before the Civil War, and will consider adding more historical context.

Northam, a VMI graduate, has said he backs the removal of Confederate statues from prominent public spaces. He has said that he would do “everything” in his authority to remove statues at the state level, but he gave no indication Tuesday that he would press the issue at VMI.

David Abrams, a spokesman for Republican nominee Ed Gillespie, said VMI’s decision is “consistent with Ed’s view that we should add historic context to monuments.”

Corey Stewart, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors chairman who made protecting Confederate statues a key to his bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, also decried Tuesday’s protest at the Jefferson statue at U.Va., issuing a series of tweets.

“It was never just about Lee,” he said in the first tweet. “We warned of this in Feb. They’re going after the Founders, then the founding documents.”

In another tweet, Stewart said: “@UVA must expel students and fire any faculty responsible. Anything less is acceptance.”

Stewart is seeking the Republican nomination to run next year against U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.

Congress this week passed a bipartisan resolution decrying the violence at the Aug. 12 rally in Charlottesville and urging President Donald Trump to speak out against “hate groups.” The resolution was introduced in the House by Reps. Thomas A. Garrett Jr., R-5th, and Gerald E. Connolly, D-11th, and in the Senate by Kaine and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.,

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Wednesday that the president plans to sign the resolution as soon as it reaches his desk.

Source: http://www.richmond.com/news/virginia/uva-president-teresa-sullivan-accuses-protesters-who-shrouded-jefferson-statue/article_d817626c-9e55-5b3f-9209-5ea5e189ecc1.html



Dear alumni and friends of the University,


Last night about forty students held a demonstration on the north side of the Rotunda and as part of this demonstration, they shrouded the Jefferson statue, desecrating ground that many of us consider sacred. I strongly disagree with the protestors’ decision to cover the Jefferson statue. University personnel removed the shroud. One person was arrested for public intoxication. These are the facts of the situation, regardless of what you may read in media accounts of those who have their own agenda.

Coming just one month after the August 11 torchlight march by 300 racist and anti-Semitic protesters, a march that became violent, this event has reminded us that there are critical and sometimes divisive issues related to the exercise of free expression in an inclusive community.

I would like to frame this issue somewhat differently. Thomas Jefferson was an ardent believer in freedom of expression, and he experienced plenty of abusive treatment from the newspapers of his day. He would likely not be surprised to find that when there are critical disagreements in the polity, those disagreements will find expression at his University. UVA's importance as a university is underscored by the fact that arguments about free expression, hate speech, and similar issues occur here. Sometimes these arguments are noisy.

In your own college days, many of you experienced protests and activism at UVA. The war in Vietnam, Watergate, 9/11, and many other issues have been discussed, debated, and protested at UVA. We are at another such point.  I prefer the process of discussion and debate, and the debate is happening here at UVA with a wide variety of guest speakers, panels, and other opportunities to look at underlying issues. That there is also activism should not be a surprise to any of us.

With my best wishes,

Teresa A. Sullivan
President








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