A Charlottesville, Virginia, statue of Thomas Jefferson ended up bundled in a black tarp and bearing a sign saying “TJ is a racist and rapist” on Tuesday after a group of about 100 students, faculty and locals gathered at the University of Virginia for a protest, according to WSLS.
Three people scaled the statue, WSLS reports, and dozens chanted that the slave-owning former president who founded the university was racist. The Jefferson statue has a prominent position in front of the rotunda at the university.
Just a month ago, white nationalists clutching tiki torches and chanting racist slogans swarmed the same rotunda, rocking the campus, leaving one counter-protester dead the next day and setting off a nationwide controversy over Confederate monuments.
“This week it’s Robert E. Lee,” President Donald Trump said last month amid debate over whether or not to remove Confederate statues. “I wonder, is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”
Debate over whether or not to remove a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville attracted the white nationalist rally, according to the New York Times. That statue was cloaked in the aftermath of the bloody clashes in August, the New York Daily News reports, as was a statue of Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson in the city.
The protesters who came out on Tuesday, braving the rain, said they were speaking out against the university’s response to those and other white nationalist demonstrators, the Daily Progress reports.
“We can and must condemn the violence of one month ago and simultaneously recognize Jefferson as a rapist, racist, and slave owner,” one unidentified speaker at the protest said, according to the Daily Progress. “The visibility of physical violence from white supremacists should not take our attention away from condemning and disrupting more ‘respectable’ racists that continue to control the structures that perpetuate institutional racism.”
The protest began around 8 p.m. and ended around midnight, according to the Daily Progress.
When protesters left, the Jefferson statue remained covered and a large banner reading “Black Lives Matter” and “F--k white supremacy” hung on its base, according to the Daily News.
Protesters Tuesday again called for the school’s administration to take down Confederate plaques on campus and to bar concealed weapons and open flames on the school’s lawn. They also criticized the administration as out of touch.
“She’s never present when she needs to be present,” student Kevin Westfield told the Cavalier Daily, singling out the university’s president, Teresa Sullivan. “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.”
The shroud was removed early Wednesday, according to reports from the Cavalier Daily, the student newspaper.