Spencer leads torch­light rally at U-Va.

Char­lottesville, dust­ing it­self off from Au­gust march, faces an­other

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - BY SU­SAN SVRLUGA su­san.svrluga@wash­post.com

Richard Spencer, who in Au­gust led white na­tion­al­ists and white su­prem­a­cists in a torch­light march across the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia cam­pus that touched off a deadly clash, re­turned Satur­day night to Char­lottesville.

Spencer, a white na­tion­al­ist, posted video on so­cial me­dia of fol­low­ers car­ry­ing torches to the statue of Robert E. Lee, which the city has sought to re­move.

The march co­in­cided with the univer­sity’s cel­e­bra­tion of its bi­cen­ten­nial.

“It was a planned flash mob,” Spencer said in an in­ter­view Satur­day night. “It was a great suc­cess. We’ve been plan­ning this for a long time.

“We wanted to prove that we came in peace in May, we came in peace in Au­gust, and we come again in peace,” he said.

Their mes­sage, he said, is that, “Our iden­tity mat­ters. We are not go­ing to stand by and al­low peo­ple to tear down these sym­bols of our his­tory and our peo­ple — and we’re go­ing to do this again.”

Char­lottesville Mayor Mike Signer sent a tweet de­nounc­ing the march: “An­other de­spi­ca­ble visit by neo-Nazi cowards. You’re not wel­come here! Go home! Mean­time we’re look­ing at all our le­gal op­tions. Stay tuned.”

Wes Go­bar, the leader of the U-Va. Black Stu­dent Al­liance, who was try­ing to fin­ish a pa­per for class when he learned of the rally, said it was dif­fi­cult bal­anc­ing stud­ies while brac­ing for the next burst of ha­tred that might seize Char­lottesville.

On Satur­day, at U-Va.’s home foot­ball game against Duke, some mem­bers of his group knelt in protest dur­ing the na­tional an­them and the univer­sity’s “Good Old Song.”

Spencer, a U-Va. grad­u­ate, said he was un­aware that the school was mark­ing its bi­cen­ten­nial. They had planned this “for a long time.”

WVIR-TV re­ported that Spencer and his group ar­rived at Eman­ci­pa­tion Park about 7:45 p.m., and de­parted 15 min­utes later.

The video Spencer posted show him and his crowd chant­ing, “You will not re­place us.”

They promised to keep re­turn­ing to Char­lottesville, which they ar­gued had be­come sym­bolic of their right to speak and also had come to sym­bol­ize the tear­ing down of sym­bols of the na­tion’s his­tory. “You will not erase us. “We are about our her­itage. Not just us Vir­gini­ans. Not just as South­ern­ers. But as white peo­ple . . . we’ll take a stand. “You’ll have to get used to us. “We’re go­ing to come back again and again and again.”

Then they began singing “Dixie.”

Of­fi­cials with the Char­lottesville po­lice depart­ment did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quests for com­ment Satur­day night.

Spokes­men for the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

The Au­gust march at U-Va. — with peo­ple chant­ing “Jews will not re­place us!” — touched off vi­o­lence be­tween de­mon­stra­tors and coun­ter­protesters the next day. A man drove into a crowd, killing one woman and in­jur­ing oth­ers, and two po­lice of­fi­cers who were mon­i­tor­ing the protests died when their he­li­copter crashed.

In the days that fol­lowed, sev­eral pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties de­nied Spencer a plat­form.

Last week, the Univer­sity of Florida re­luc­tantly agreed to al­low Spencer to speak later this month, say­ing it had no choice be­cause as a state in­sti­tu­tion, it must al­low ex­pres­sion of all view­points.

The univer­sity, in Gainesville, Fla., is charg­ing the Na­tional Pol­icy In­sti­tute, which Spencer leads, $10,000 to rent a cam­pus fa­cil­ity and to pro­vide se­cu­rity inside the univer­sity’s per­form­ing arts cen­ter.

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