A group of protesters shrouded the statue of Thomas Jefferson in front of the Rotunda on Tuesday night. The demonstration, which comprised students, alumni and members of the local community, surrounded the statue as individuals climbed on top of the structure and wrapped it in black fabric.
Fourth-year College student Anelle Mensah said the rally was not organized by one specific group, and many of the attendees were from a variety of organizations.
“It was done as a solidarity action with Charlottesville after the events that transpired on August 11 and August 12,” Mensah said. “It was to commemorate and honor the students and the community members that were here surrounding the statue on August 11, and the folks that were severely injured, the folks that died — such as Heather Heyer — on August 12.”
The base of the statue was draped with a sign that read “Black Lives Matter — F—k White Supremacy.” Other members of the crowd carried signs that said “Thomas Jefferson is a racist and a rapist,” as well as “End Hate Now.” They also shouted chants of “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”
The gathering began at 8:00 p.m., as students marched en masse toward the statue holding signs and chanting slogans. Several of them came from University President Teresa Sullivan’s residence at Carr’s Hill, where they were protesting Sullivan's perceived inaction on the night of Aug. 11.
After the shrouding, tension arose among the crowd when counter-protesters began to capture pictures of the event. In response, the protesters gathered around the statue and criticized those who were passively watching, chanting “Stop staring! Start fighting!” A small police presence stood in the immediate vicinity.
At one point, University Police officers were observed disarming a man who had a firearm. The man appeared to be handcuffed, escorted out of the area and placed into a police car.
In a release Wednesday, University Police said they arrested a Charlottesville man named Brian Lambert for public intoxication.
"Mr. Lambert was legally 'open carrying' a firearm at the time of his arrest and was not in violation of state law," the UPD release said. "Mr. Lambert also has no affiliation with the University and was not in violation of any University policy."
The shroud was removed from the statue late Tuesday night.
Kevin Westfield, a third-year College student who participated in a reading at the demonstration of the student demands being championed by the Black Student Alliance and numerous other student groups, spoke to the Cavalier Daily at the preceding event at Carr’s Hill. In an interview, he said he believes that certain aspects of history, such as Thomas Jefferson’s legacy, should be studied but not cherished.
“Let’s really talk about the history and the heritage that you’re holding onto so proudly,” Westfield said. “If we can really analyze that and look at it with a critical lens, then that sounds like an amazing thing for us to facilitate — but if we’re not going to do that, and we’re just going to have it on this super beautifully ambiguous display that says nothing, that has a single narrative, that doesn’t really say anything ... Then what heritage are you holding on to? You’re holding on to a false narrative.”
Westfield also criticized Sullivan’s response to the torchlit white nationalist march that transpired on Aug. 11.
“She’s never present when she needs to be present,” Westfield said. “She’s only present in response. Don’t be reactionary; be proactive. Be a body that’s actually willing to be there on the front lines.”
Alexis Gravely contributed reporting to this article.
This article has been updated with information from the University Police Department.