Charlottesville citizens voice concerns over planned Ku Klux Klan rally

City Council passes resolution opposing U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord

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The council also unanimously passed a resolution Monday opposing President Donald Trump’s decision on June 1 to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord.

Geremia Di Maro | Cavalier Daily

Charlottesville residents voiced their concerns to the city council Monday about the Ku Klux Klan rally planned for July 8 in the city’s recently renamed Emancipation Park, formerly Lee Park.

The permit for the group to hold the rally at the park has already been granted by the city despite resident objections.

“Mayor Signer declared Charlottesville a capital of resistance,” a citizen said. “The only action that will tell us that you care at all about communities of color in Charlottesville is to revoke the permit.”

Similarly, another citizen speaker criticized the city for granting the permit and called for its immediate revocation.

“The city of Charlottesville is planning to protect the KKK and we can't pretend to be a capital of resistance without revoking the permit for the rally,” the speaker said. “Rescind the permit or it is quite literally blood on the hands of the council.”

Another citizen, John Hayden, spoke in favor of the rally and criticized the council’s management of race relations in the city.

“There is nothing wrong with celebrating your history and culture,” Hayden said. “The council advocates the dismantling of white history and supports Afrocentric programs that are aimed at blacks and exclude whites.”

Hayden also accused the council of impeding his ability to openly express his opinion due to a difference in political opinion.

“Why is it that you not only promote the interruption of my First Amendment rights, but then also fail to enforce city code for disorderly conduct in the obstruction of my First Amendment rights?” Hayden said to the council. “Is it because of my … conservative values?”

Mayor Mike Signer declared Hayden to be out of order for exceeding his three minute speaking limit at which point he refused to leave the podium until he received “three uninterrupted minutes of speaking time.” When police officers approached Hayden, he was escorted from the council chambers without conflict.

The council members briefly discussed the issues raised by the citizen comments and denounced the KKK as a “terrorist organization” but ultimately cited the First Amendment of the Constitution as legal justification for granting the permit.

However, in response to citizen concerns, Councilor Kristin Szakos asked for the council to conduct additional research into potentially revoking the permit based on alleged calls on social media by KKK members for violence at the rally.

Both Mayor Signer and Szakos expressed their disapproval of the planned KKK rally and their presence in the Charlottesville community but emphasized the council’s duty to uphold federal laws and the Constitution.

“The presence of the KKK in our community sickens me,” Szakos said. “But we have a duty as a council to uphold and enforce federal law and the Constitution.”

The council also unanimously passed a resolution Monday opposing President Donald Trump’s decision on June 1 to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord.

As a component of the resolution, the City of Charlottesville is slated to register with the Compact of Mayors, an international union of mayors and city officials established at the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit with the common goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Paris Climate Accord is an agreement set forth by the United Nations in December 2015, originally reached with the support of the U.S. under the Obama Administration. Its goal is to strengthen a global response to climate change by reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.

The resolution continues a trend of resistance towards actions taken by the Trump Administration as the council also voted to oppose Trump’s military spending increase proposal on March 20.

The resolution was presented by Charlottesville Environmental Sustainability Manager Kristel Riddervold and Signer with the aim of reaffirming Charlottesville’s commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement and environmental policy reform in general.

Moreover, Signer has also unilaterally joined the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda to show his support for the Paris Agreement and climate change reform policy in collaboration with mayors at an international level.

However, Signer emphasized the unity of the council in supporting the Paris Agreement and registration of Charlottesville with the Compact of Mayors in light of his individual decision to join the MNCAA without the direct consent of the other council members.

“This [resolution] is definitely an instance where it is a collective effort,” Signer said. “The council is doing this as a group effort in order to reduce climate change pollution.”

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