U-Va. to use 1921 pledge by KKK to pay costs of vic­tims in alt-right rally

School al­lo­cates $12,400, to­day’s equiv­a­lent of promised $1,000

The Washington Post - - RELIGION - BY SU­SAN SVR­LUGA

The Univer­sity of Vir­ginia will help pay the med­i­cal ex­penses of peo­ple in­jured dur­ing clashes with white su­prem­a­cists in Char­lottesville last month, in an amount equiv­a­lent to money that was pledged to the univer­sity by the Ku Klux Klan in 1921.

U-Va.’s pres­i­dent, Teresa A. Sul­li­van, spoke to the school’s Board of Vis­i­tors on Thurs­day about safety, the univer­sity’s core val­ues and the on­go­ing ex­am­i­na­tion of its com­pli­cated his­tory in the wake of vi­o­lent con­fronta­tions with white su­prem­a­cists.

The univer­sity’s rec­tor, Frank M. “Rusty” Con­ner III, ad­dressed the board: “What has be­come known, as both a lament and a call to arms, as ‘Char­lottesville’ lays bare once again the in­tractable chal­lenges that our so­ci­ety faces with re­spect to racial rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, so­cial jus­tice and eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity. Will we lis­ten this time?”

Hun­dreds of peo­ple marched through the cam­pus Aug. 11 car­ry­ing torches, shout­ing racial slurs and fight­ing with coun­ter­protesters at a statue of the school’s founder, Thomas Jef­fer­son. The next day, the con­flict turned deadly when a man drove into a crowd of peo­ple protest­ing a planned white-su­prem­a­cist rally, killing one woman and wound­ing 19. Two po­lice of­fi­cers died when their he­li­copter crashed while mon­i­tor­ing the day’s demon­stra­tions.

The vi­o­lence came at a time when the univer­sity, which is pre­par­ing to cel­e­brate its bi­cen­ten­nial, was delv­ing into some of the more dif­fi­cult as­pects of its his­tory, in­clud­ing an on­go­ing com­mis­sion on slav­ery, a planned me­mo­rial to en­slaved work­ers on cam­pus, and other com­mem­o­ra­tions.

Dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tions con­tin­ued this week. On Tues­day night, a rally mark­ing the one-month an­niver­sary of the vi­o­lence cul­mi­nated with some pro­test­ers shroud­ing a statue of Jef­fer­son.

Col­lege Repub­li­cans at U-Va. wrote in a state­ment, “Van­dal­iz­ing and tear­ing down the statue of Jef­fer­son will do noth­ing to deal with the is­sue of racism in the United States, and it will do noth­ing to com­bat white supremacy on grounds.”

They were also trou­bled that some mem­bers of their group — which has con­demned big­otry and ha­tred — who were watch­ing the rally Tues­day night were called white su­prem­a­cists by pro­test­ers.

Sul­li­van told the cam­pus com­mu­nity in an email that she strongly dis­agreed with the de­ci­sion to cover the statue.

Some stu­dents ob­jected to part of Sul­li­van’s state­ment in which, af­ter say­ing pro­test­ers had shrouded the statue, she ended the para­graph with, “One per­son was ar­rested for pub­lic in­tox­i­ca­tion.” That left the im­pres­sion that the per­son ar­rested was a stu­dent, the group said.

Char­lottesville res­i­dent Brian Lam­bert was ar­rested, ac­cord­ing to the univer­sity po­lice. He has no af­fil­i­a­tion with the univer­sity and was openly car­ry­ing a firearm.

Willis Jenk­ins, one of sev­eral fac­ulty mem­bers who had been asked to be at the protest to wit­ness the events, said Lam­bert has of­ten been seen at white­supremacist events.

Jenk­ins said he noticed that Lam­bert was car­ry­ing a gun in a leg hol­ster and that he was an­gry at the stu­dents. Jenk­ins talked to him, hop­ing to calm him down and defuse the sit­u­a­tion un­til po­lice stepped in.

Jenk­ins said some peo­ple in­ter­preted the pres­i­dent’s re­sponse to the protest as craft­ing a nar­ra­tive that stu­dent demon­stra­tors were the problem rather than white su­prem­a­cists. He said it didn’t seem that she was un­der­stand­ing the stu­dents’ mes­sage.

“No one’s call­ing for re­moval of the statue,” he said. “It’s more about how we reckon with his­tory.”

The Black Stu­dent Al­liance at U-Va., which did not or­ga­nize the protest, noted in a state­ment that Sul­li­van had told grad­u­ates in an email that the demon­stra­tors had “des­e­crated ground that many of us con­sider sa­cred.”

The Black Stu­dent Al­liance wrote, “No­tably, she did not say this about the hun­dreds of torch wield­ing white su­prem­a­cists on Au­gust 11th.”

Jenk­ins said re­marks by the univer­sity’s rec­tor to the board Thurs­day were closer to what he felt the cam­pus has needed to hear from lead­er­ship. He noted these ideas in par­tic­u­lar:

“Our his­tory is bound up with that of this na­tion’s found­ing, the Civil War, and the sys­tem of Jim Crow that fol­lowed,” Con­ner said. “If we re­ally want to im­prove the his­tory of our past, we must im­prove the his­tory of our fu­ture by con­tin­u­ing to ac­knowl­edge and re­pair our faults and bend­ing the arc of his­tory to pro­vide real jus­tice and equal­ity for all.”

Con­ner ac­knowl­edged in his re­marks that mis­takes were made that al­lowed the marchers to come onto cam­pus in Au­gust.

“We have long been a Univer­sity that has wel­comed and pro­moted the free ex­change of ideas, re­gard­less of their re­pug­nancy, as a ba­sic tenet of a free so­ci­ety. And we have po­liced numer­ous demon­stra­tions, marches and fo­rums with that mind-set and, per­haps naively, with trust that that mind-set was shared by those demon­strat­ing.

“But this march was dif­fer­ent, and the coun­try and other com­mu­ni­ties and uni­ver­si­ties took note.

“What we wit­nessed was far more than a march pro­tected by the First Amend­ment, but rather one that weaponized the First Amend­ment with the in­tent to in­tim­i­date and ter­ror­ize our com­mu­nity and our val­ues.”

Sul­li­van spoke of changes the univer­sity has made to im­prove safety. She also noted that some­one had put up anti-Mus­lim posters on cam­pus Tues­day, and said, “Thomas Jef­fer­son was im­per­fect, but he also con­trib­uted to the re­li­gious and other free­doms that we up­hold against those who would seek to di­vide us.”

And she ad­dressed a gift that was pledged to the univer­sity by the KKK in 1921. She said the univer­sity’s then-pres­i­dent ac­knowl­edged the pledge, but U-Va. has not found ev­i­dence that it was ever paid.

“We’re go­ing to ac­knowl­edge the pledge,” she said in pre­pared re­marks to the board, “and we’re go­ing do so in a way that would be as dis­agree­able as pos­si­ble for any rem­nants of the KKK who may be watch­ing.

“That $1,000 pledge, if in­flated to to­day’s dol­lars, would be worth about $12,400. With that num­ber in mind, I have al­lo­cated $12,500 from pri­vate sources to the ‘Char­lottesville Pa­tient Sup­port Fund,’ which is man­aged by the UVA Health Foun­da­tion, to pay med­i­cal ex­penses for peo­ple who were in­jured dur­ing the vi­o­lence in Au­gust. Any left­over funds will sup­port care for other mem­bers of our com­mu­nity.

“In other words, we are al­lo­cat­ing that cen­tury-old pledge from white su­prem­a­cists to heal the wounds in­flicted by the dy­ing ves­tiges of white supremacy that struck Char­lottesville last month. I hope any re­main­ing mem­bers of the KKK will ap­pre­ci­ate the irony.”


Res­cue work­ers help a vic­tim who was hurt when a car drove through coun­ter­protesters at a white su­prem­a­cist rally.

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