This weekend groups of individuals gathered at Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest … something. What the groups were protesting is not quite clear: that the protest was an unfiltered expression of white supremacy is quite clear.

Images of whites brandishing tiki torches by the Rotunda at the University of Virginia filled Friday evening social media. The next day, the protests moved to Emancipation Park, ostensibly to object to the efforts by the Charlottesville City Council to relocate the equestrian monument of Robert E. Lee still standing at what was once called Lee Park, just north of downtown Richmond. Counterprotesters soon appeared, as did law enforcement. The scene looked rowdy and ugly …

… and then it got worse, when a car bearing Ohio licence plates plowed into a crowd of counterprotestors just south of the pedestrian mall. One woman was killed, nineteen people were injured, according to media reports … and this was in addition to fifteen people reported injured earlier during confrontations during the protest.

My sympathies to the families and friends of those who died today and best wishes for the recovery of those injured. It’s a tragedy.

President Donald J. Trump declared, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” Critics noted the president’s failure to single out the white supremacists who instigated the rally: apparently the man who chided others for their inability to say “radical Islamic terrorism” finds saying “white supremacist terrorism” very difficult.

But that at least was better than this:
You can always count on some folks to protect their allies.

Taken together, the events at Richmond’s public hearing this past week concerning what to do with that city’s Confederate statuary and the protests and violence at Charlottesville, as well as the reaction to these events, lead us to several conclusions:

1.  While not all advocates of Confederate heritage are racists, one cannot deny that there are links between certain prominent Confederate heritage groups and white supremacists/nationalists, as the case of Matthew Heimbach suggests.

2.  Confederate heritage advocates generally are muted if not completely silent when it comes the the activities of Confederate Battle Flag-waving white supremacists/nationalists. You won’t see the Virginia Flaggers denounce them; you won’t see Connie Chastain put out memes assailing them; you won’t hear a peep from Virginia Whine Country; and we await the Sons of Confederate Veterans announcing that the use of the CBF in Saturday’s events constitutes a “heritage violation.” In large part this is because a good number of the supporters of such groups share the racial attitudes of white supremacists, as we’ve demonstrated in Chastain’s case. In other cases, they’re just skeered.

3. Charlottesville 2017 may join Charleston 2015 as signposts on the path to the eradication of Confederate symbols on public land. I’ve always thought that white supremacists are their own worst enemies, and, just as Charleston 2015 created a backlash against Confederate symbols, so will Charlottesville 2017.

4. The hearings in Richmond this past week suggested that middle ground between those who want monuments to stay in place without any contextual interpretation and those who want removal (yes, I recall someone recently called for destruction, but let’s set that aside) is eroding quickly. Forced to make a choice between extremes, policymakers and politicians are unlikely to render many decisions that will please advocates of Confederate heritage. Nor will what happened in Charlottesville these past several days help heritage advocates in the long run, in part because of their own flaccid reaction to events. Meanwhile, removal/relocation will pick up support.

I’ve always said that (1) Confederate heritage advocates are their own worse enemies and (2) they seem unwilling to disassociate themselves from white supremacists or denounce them with anywhere near the same vigor with which they assail their critics elsewhere. We are about to see the consequences of those decisions.


35 thoughts on “Charlottesville

  1. TFSmith August 12, 2017 / 8:57 pm

    Apparently the mayor of Lexington, Kentucky, has ordered the rebel statues in his town be removed forthwith (apparently the council had voted to do it already, but he wants it expedited.

    At this point, I am strongly in the tear them all down camp.

    Swastikas and stars and bars are two sides of the same coin.

    • David Vazquez October 16, 2017 / 12:44 pm

      I don’t think you know what The Stars and Bars flag was… And no, it wasn’t the battle flag. And no, Nazi swastikas ha’ve nothing to do with it. Those who were the swastika were not even Americans, they were Germans.

  2. hankc9174 August 13, 2017 / 6:31 am

    ‘boycott Charlottesville’ is exactly what I wish the flaggers and white supremacists would do.

    • Andy Hall August 13, 2017 / 9:29 am

      Because their boycott of Lexington has gone so very, very well, I suppose. Since they began their boycott, Lexington’s revenues from hotel/motel taxes and restaurant food taxes have both more than doubled. The Virginia Flaggers’ boycott has been the best thing to happen to Lexington’s municipal finances since the invention of the parking meter.

  3. hankc9174 August 13, 2017 / 6:34 am

    Regarding: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” – there are no ‘sides’ to white supremacy.

  4. John Foskett August 13, 2017 / 7:44 am

    Here’s what another Republican President said some 30+ years ago when he was “endorsed” by the KKK – “”Those of us in public life can only resent the use of our names by those who seek political recognition for the repugnant doctrines of hate they espouse. The politics of racial hatred and religious bigotry practiced by the Klan and others have no place in this country, and are destructive of the values for which America has always stood.” Where is that statement today – especially after Mr. Duke again went public yesterday?.

    • John Randolph August 13, 2017 / 9:20 am

      “So sad!” he says.


      What’s “so sad” is that as the brittle threads that barely hold the American nation together increasingly stretch, and break, underneath the weight of its poisoned politics, our so-called president declares the current version of the Sturmabteilung as merely another side.

      • John Foskett August 13, 2017 / 10:15 am

        When Ted Cruz, Orrin Hatch, Corey Gardner, Christie, Scaramucci, etc. etc have the guts and integrity to come out and condemn the crowd that showed up with shields, helmets, and language right out of Julius Streicher’s manual, the picture at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue ain’t pretty.

      • John Foskett August 14, 2017 / 8:17 am

        The odds that Trump even knows about that group are close to zero. He’d actually have to do something besides scoping out morning cable shows to figure out what they’re saying about him.The Daily Storm crowd has correctly assessed how he handled this, just in case you haven’t. .

  5. TF Smith August 13, 2017 / 9:09 am

    Josh Marshall and others have made the point that Trump’s call to “cherish our history” in this context reads as an endorsement of “heritage” and given MIller’s ties to Spencer going back to Duke, quite obviously.

    Trump is one of them.

    • John Foskett August 13, 2017 / 10:17 am

      We already know his level of knowledge about American history. Even considering how poorly it’s taught these days, you’ll get more intelligent insights from the average 4th grader.

  6. Michael Bradley August 13, 2017 / 5:58 pm

    The Sons of Confederate Veterans condemned the first march of white supremacists in Charlottesville on May 16, 2017. The SCV has frequently adopted public statements condemning the KKK and all other such groups who use the CBF for racist purposes.

  7. Matt McKeon August 14, 2017 / 5:08 am

    I was in Charlottesville for a teaching seminar in June. Its a great place to visit.

    The argument around Confederate monuments has followed a familiar path. But that’s changed now. People have died. The alt right got what it wanted: chaos, publicity, blood. But they’re out in the open now. I don’t think they’re going to like the bright lights, and their “respectable” enablers are going to start backing away.

  8. Michael Bradley August 14, 2017 / 6:18 am

    An additional statement condemning the violence of August 12 was posted on August 13.

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 14, 2017 / 9:33 am

      Well, one might see the statement put out by the Virginia Division of the SCV on Facebook. They sound a great deal like the Virginia Fallgers.

      Advocates of Confederate heritage are their own worse enemies, and the actions of many of those advocates this weekend will help to destroy what they claim they want to preserve and protect.

  9. Ma. E. Martin August 14, 2017 / 9:50 am

    Good. Happy that neo-confederate racists will boycott C’ville. We’re sick of them, and the town will be healthier without their toxic hate. Hoping the door hits them as they exit.

  10. M. E. Martin August 14, 2017 / 10:01 am

    Note that, on the Unite the Right rally poster Matt Heimbach is listed as an official leader. Here’s a terrific opportunity for the Flaggers to denounce white supremacy and Nazi ties to their “heritage” movement given their past ties with this dangerous racist.

  11. fundrums August 14, 2017 / 10:49 am

    As I said over on Facebook: The climate surrounding this discussion has changed. It’s not about monuments anymore. It’s not about heritage anymore. It’s about hate. Both sides should be focused on that.

    – Michael Aubrecht

    • Lyle Smith August 20, 2017 / 6:17 am


  12. Matt McKeon August 14, 2017 / 10:16 pm

    If I hear that both sides crap anymore I’m going to puke. One side are KKKers, Neo Nazis, and white supremacists. They weren’t in C ville for a “discussion” they were there for blood. And they got some. What a tremendous victory they achieved in Charlottesville. With a cute little wink from our president that has them over the moon. I hope they give a shoutout as well to the most useful of idiots, the both sides do it crowd.

    • Lyle Smith August 20, 2017 / 6:17 am

      President Trump said many sides not both sides. Words matter. There was left-wing violence in Charlottesville. The neo-Nazi/white nationalist committed an act of terrorism there, which was much worse violence. His violent act was like the recent shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise.

      • MSB August 23, 2017 / 2:01 pm

        Only one group of bad guys in Charlottesville: the ones with hoods and swastikas. Words do indeed matter and Trump made his support for the alt-right crystal clear, as they duly noted.

  13. John Randolph August 15, 2017 / 4:51 pm

    President Trump interprets the unfortunate violence on June 6, 1944:

    “What about the Allied forces that came charging in? Excuse me. What about the Allied forces that came charging at the — as you say, the Nazi forces? Do they have any semblance of guilt? — Let me ask you this. What about the fact they came charging — that they came charging with rifles in their hands, firing rifles? Do they have any problem? I think they do. — You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent, and nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now. You had a group — you had a group on the other side of the English Channel that came charging into Europe, and they were very, very violent.”

      • John Randolph August 18, 2017 / 10:53 am

        Look, it’s simple.

        There are Nazis and White Supremacists. And there is everyone else.

        There is no “alt-left”. And even if there was, it’s not a moral equivalent to the Nathan Bedford Forrest and Horst Wessel wannabes who strutted around Charlottesville yelling “Blood and Soil” and “Jews won’t replace me!” These people support ideologies that justify slavery and genocide.

        That’s what make them so special.

        Yes, certainly a healthy democracy must facilitate civil debate and the competition of ideas between a wide spectrum of arguments advanced from citizens on the Right, the Left, and everything in-between. But ideologies based on genocide and slavery are not legitimate points of view and should never be allowed to be seen as such. Rather, decency obligates people of good will, regardless of their politics, to always be vigilant against these evils and denounce them whenever they arise.

        If President Trump, Steve Bannon and the other geniuses leading the right these days had a shred of decency, let alone any regard for their country, they’d be disassociating themselves, and their cause, totally and absolutely from Nazis and White Supremacists as fast as they could, rather than cynically ginning up some false equivalency to a fabricated “alt-left”.

        • John Foskett August 19, 2017 / 8:30 am

          This is easy: “I reject your support and I don’t want your vote”. These people follow a rotten philosophy that thousands of loyal Americans died fighting against in order to remove its evil grip in this planet. You’re effectively telling traitors that you want nothing to do with them. It’;s a low bar but Trump appears to be face-down in the dirt.

  14. TF Smith August 18, 2017 / 12:41 am

    The neo-Nazis and wannabee confederates went looking for a fight in Charlottesville and they found it, leaving three dead and a score of injured in their wake…

    “Many, many sides” is bull.

    The blood is on the hands of those who planned the Charlottesville event and their Republican Party enablers, from Trump on down.

    • TF Smith August 18, 2017 / 5:26 pm

      And the above includes those like Kris who try and defend the wannabee stormtroopers…

    • Lyle Smith August 20, 2017 / 6:13 am

      If you can only see right-wing violence, you’re not paying close attention or you’re just not being honest.

      • John Foskett August 21, 2017 / 6:14 am

        If you can’t tell Nazis and white supremacists that you don’t want their support, “you’re not paying close attention or you’re just not being honest” – or ………………………….

      • TFSmith August 21, 2017 / 7:32 am

        The right wing sought this confrontation in Charlottesville, and did everything they could to bring it about; and through the Southern Strategy, which dates back to Nixon and Lee Atwater, white supremacists have had the encouragement of the GOP for the past five decades.

        These monuments were built for a reason, to sustain white supremacy in the south in the post-Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras.

        If you disagree, explain – as Eric Foner says – why aren’t there as many monuments in the south to Longstreet as there are to Jackson? Much less Thomas and the Grimkes and Fleetwood and all the rest?

        Go back to the Nineteenth Century where you belong, reb.

        Americans are sick of the albatross of “Southern heritage” and the ruin it has visited on this nation since the founding.

  15. Lyle Smith August 20, 2017 / 6:11 am

    I was looking up Eric Foner and came across this youtube video where he talks about monuments and renaming Calhoun college at Yale.

    Whoever made this video had a special comment for you Professor Simpson.

    “Brooks Simpson & Kevin Levin should stop defending white supremacists and follow Foner’s lead.”

    Foner doesn’t agree that every Confederate/Lost Cause monument should come down per this discussion.

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 20, 2017 / 9:18 pm

      The Calhoun group was rather active in attacking everyone as a white supremacist who didn’t agree with them. They just lacked the guts to state their names or to do anything but clutter social media.

      • Lyle Smith August 21, 2017 / 6:08 am


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