Nearing the anniversary of the infamous “Unite the Right” Rally in Charlottesville, two Confederate heritage groups have announced their plans to hold a rally at the Jefferson Davis Monument in Richmond in response to Mayor Levar Stoney’s Monument Avenue Commission recommending the removal of the statue following nearly a year of deciding whether to reinterpret or “add context” to the statues. The groups CSA II: The New Confederate States of America and the Virginia Task Force of Three Percenters, which goes by the nickname “Dixie Defenders,” are scheduled to convene at the statue between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday, August 19, and are claiming the event is a defense of the validity of the monument erected as an ode to Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
“Once we found out that the mayor is pushing more about taking Jefferson Davis down, putting signs around our statues, we knew we had to defend Dixie,” said Wendy Hayslett, an affiliate of the Dixie Defenders who said she will be among the speakers at the event, according to a report from the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “We have to say enough is enough. We’re tired of it.”
Hayslett said she anticipates between 50 and 75 people will show up. A Facebook event page shows 17 people have indicated they will attend and at least 156 are interested in attending. On one website promoting the event, “everyone else who is an ancestor to the confederacy is welcome to attend this event.”
Jim Nolan, a spokesman for the mayor, said the city would be ready for the gathering of Confederate sympathizers .
“We are aware of this event and we will be prepared,” he said.
CSA II, a Tennessee-based Confederate group, was behind the last year’s rally at Monument Avenue which drew about six people in support of the statues. The September rally was met with scores more who showed up to counter-protest, which all happened under strict police supervision and with the main thoroughfare through the Monument Avenue neighborhood being shut down for several days.
There is also a rumored rally to be set to occur on Monument Avenue on September 15. The website confirming the August 19 rally states that next month’s gathering is “Round 4,” also with the designation: “One Year In – Raise Your Battle Flag.” CSA II is also said to be sponsoring the event.
Unlike in Charlottesville, the City of Richmond was fully prepared for the September 2017 event. Through equipment, food, and overtime for law enforcement officers, the city did end up, though, with a bill of around $574,000.
The Richmond Police Department says it has not received an application for a permit for the event. When asked about the plans for the police if the crowd was much bigger than last year, department spokeswoman Chelsea Rarrick explained that the police force would rely on the situation from last year that upheld safety and security in Richmond’s historic neighborhood.
“Our goal is to allow citizens to express their First Amendment right to speak their minds while protecting and maintaining the safety of the general public,” Rarrick said.
One of the reasons why the event was scheduled was because of the vandalism on one of the other statues lining the avenue.
Last weekend, red paint was dumped on the base of the Robert E. Lee monument just a few blocks from that of Jefferson Davis. Moreover, the letters “BLM,” what seemed to be a reference to the Black Lives Matter movement, were also spray painted on the monument.
At a cost of $4,400 in taxpayer dollars, the Virginia Department of General Services, which maintains the state-owned statue, had the paint removed swiftly.
City police have yet to make an arrest in connection with the incident. The Department of General Services is offering a $1,000 reward for information about the person or people responsible for the vandalism.
In echoing the sentiment of many Richmonders regarding the Confederate rally-goers last year, “stay out of our city.”