Charlottesville activist groups and faith community members plan to host counter events Saturday in light of a Ku Klux Klan rally scheduled for that afternoon at Emancipation Park.
“The best repudiation of [the KKK] is to opt for another way of celebrating, mourning, arguing, testifying, witnessing, but not to confront and engage with them while doing those things,” Charlottesville City Mayor Mike Signer said.
The Loyal White Knights of the KKK plan to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park, formerly Lee Park. In February, Charlottesville City Council voted 3-2 to remove the statue.
Signer said the KKK rally “absolutely” raises a concern for violence.
“The most important goal from our police chief on down has been don’t take the bait,” Signer said. “This group and other groups like them thrive on confrontation and controversy. They’re coming here because they want a twisted sort of celebrity, and they want to draw people into their assorted drama.”
Organizations from around the Charlottesville community, among them the Albemarle-Charlottesville NAACP and the Charlottesville Clergy Collective, will host events throughout the day in opposition to the rally.
Andrea Douglas, director of the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, said the center is organizing a series of events for Saturday, collaborating with local businesses and non-profits.
One such event, Charlottesville, Who are we?, will have representatives from Black Lives Matter, Sin Barreras, Cville Pride and Cville Islamic Center. Douglas said the event seeks to foster a better understanding of Charlottesville’s diversity.
“We’ve reached out to the Muslim community, LGBTQ community, African American community and Latino community,” Douglas said. “That is really about trying to create a better understanding and description of what Charlottesville looks like.”
The Jefferson School City Center will be hosting events Saturday morning, starting with Meditation in the JSCC Park.
“It’s being led by Common Grounds [and] Ebony Bugg,” Douglas said. “That is followed by two gospel choirs.”
Clemons Library will host a safe space in room 407 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. At 11:30 a.m., IX Art Park will be hosting The People’s Picnic: Coming Together for Community.
From 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., the Charlottesville Clergy Collective will hold a Hospitality Safe Space at First United Methodist Church, with refreshments, music and training for those planning to join witness at Justice Park.
Showing Up for Racial Justice Charlottesville will be hosting BlocKKKparty, a party-themed protest overlapping with the 3 p.m. KKK rally.
Mimi Arbeit, spokesperson for SURJ, said her organization planned BlocKKKparty as a way of standing up to “Klan terrorism” and white nationalism.
“This legacy of white supremacy is also reflected in the daily life of Charlottesville,” Arbeit said. “In confronting the Klan and in confronting the rise of white nationalism, we also must confront how white supremacy manifests in our city’s policies and practices.”
The NAACP will be hosting a rally at Jack Jouett Middle School from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m, while Unity C-ville will host a concert with multi-faith choirs at Sprint Pavilion at the same time. Into the night, there will be a Grits & Gravy Dance Party at the Jefferson Theater.
Signer said he’s “thrilled and proud” of the counter events.
“I’m very proud of the way that the community has come together and generated a very wide range of alternative events that will allow us to tell our story of being a welcoming, diverse and inclusive community and not let these outsiders tell the story for us,” he said.
A full list of events can be found at the Unity C-ville website.