News of a protest in Charlottesville Virginia made national headlines this week. Though police drove the protesters out of the park after no more than 10 minutes, the display still garnered a fair bit of attention.
This is likely due to the person leading the protest, Richard Spencer. Spencer, the man who claims to have coined the term “alt-right” has been in and out of the news for both his inflammatory statements, and for the public’s reaction to them.
A brief peek into Spencer’s fame: in a New York Times interview he was quoted as saying “America was, until this last generation, a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity. It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”
His offensive views on white nationalism have made him almost as famous as the now famous clip of Spencer being punched during President Trump’s inauguration. A punch heard round the world that had much of the Internet asking, “ Is it ever ok to condone violence?”
So this is the man who encouraged citizens in Charlottesville to take up their torches (literally) in order to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. Of course these citizens’ right to protest and right to freedom of speech is protected. Hate speech is another matter.
One of the chants that could be heard from the crowd was “blood and soil.” This could be heard in one of the videos Spencer uploaded to YouTube. The phrase comes from a Nazi era slogan that referred to a doctrine that not only called for a “back to the land” approach and re-adoption of rural values; it held that German land was bound, perhaps mystically, to German blood.
It was hate speech then, and it is hate speech now. There is no denying that, which is likely why the police felt justified in breaking up the gathering. Plus when a counter protest group appeared some violence did ensue, though no injuries were reported.
The mayor of Charlottesville, Mike Signer, publicly denounced the protest. “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.” Signer said.
Still many of the protesters claimed that they were not white supremacists. One participant, Orry Von Dize, said “We are simply just white people that love our heritage, our culture, our European identity.”
Well, that is allowed. You are allowed to love your heritage and your roots. While I don’t personally agree with folks hanging Confederate flags or the building of statues Commemorating Confederate heroes, I do agree that if it something you want to do, that is your prerogative. Often times when I visit the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts I see flaggers sitting outside showcasing their heritage.
You know what they aren’t doing? Chanting Nazi slogans or being led by a known white nationalist. If you are a person who believes in your right to fly the Confederate battle flag or idolize Robert E. Lee then let me offer some advice.
Do not associate yourself with people who stand for all the terrible things that society associates you with. In the shadow of Mother’s Day let’s remember her advice; you are who your friends are. Who you associate with determines who you are, and I would guess that mom would not invite Richard Spencer to dinner twice.