Tuesday night a group of 100 UVA students and faculty surrounded the statue of Thomas Jefferson on UVA’s campus and covered it with a tarp and a sign that read “Black Lives Matter.” From the Daily Progress:
They covered the UVa founder’s statue in black, mimicking the city’s decision to shroud the statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in the wake of the violent Aug. 12 rally that resulted in one death and dozens of injuries…
With some sporting “Black Lives Matter” signs and many others chanting, the crowd cheered as three protesters climbed the Jefferson statue, adorning it with signs that dubbed the former president a “racist” and “rapist.”
While chanting mantras that have become routine in anti-racist protests, the common chant “No Trump, No KKK no fascist USA” was tweaked, swapping “fascist USA” with “racist UVa.”…
“There is only one side to this,” said one of the protesters standing upon the Jefferson statue.
Here’s a video showing the protesters surrounding the monument:
Protestors surround shrouded statue of Thomas Jefferson pic.twitter.com/oEkoM5jGCO
— The Cavalier Daily (@cavalierdaily) September 13, 2017
The tarp covering the statue and the signs were taken down hours later. UVA officials said by the time they sent workers to remove it the tarp was gone. UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan published a statement saying she disagreed with the protester’s actions:
I strongly disagree with the protestors’ decision to cover the Jefferson statue. I also recognize the rights of those present at the protest to express their emotions and opinions regarding the recent horrific events that occurred on our Grounds and in Charlottesville. Our community continues to heal, and we must remain respectful of one another if substantive progress can be made on addressing the many challenges and opportunities that we all face.
Last month, UVA’s Black Student Alliance demanded that the school “balance” the school’s historical landscape. “The statue of Jefferson serves as an emblem of white supremacy, and should be re-contextualized with a plaque to include that history.” Have students changed their minds? Do they now want the statue gone?
President Trump predicted this turn of events in a contentious exchange with reporters last month. “I wonder, is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You really do have to ask yourself, ‘Where does it stop?'” Trump said. In response, the NY Times published a story quoting historians who disagreed there was any slippery slope involved:
“The debates that started two or three years ago have saturated the culture so much that even the president is now talking about them,” said John Fabian Witt, a professor of history at Yale, which earlier this year announced that it would remove John C. Calhoun’s name from a residential college.
Mr. Witt called Mr. Trump’s warning of a slippery slope a “red herring.” There have been, after all, no calls to tear down the Washington Monument.
Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor of history and law at Harvard who is credited with breaking down the wall of resistance among historians to the idea that Jefferson had a sexual relationship with Sally Hemings, said that the answer to Mr. Trump’s hypothetical question about whether getting rid of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson also meant junking Washington and Jefferson was a simple “no.”
I wonder if this will become a national news story. Given the connection to the Charlottesville rally and the President’s comments, both of which were big national stories, there are certainly plenty of reasons it could be. But how many media figures want to write a story like this one at the San-Diego Union Tribune headlined, “Protesters cover Thomas Jefferson statue in black. Was Trump right?” Here’s a local news report on the protest last night:
— Allison (Norlian) Collins-Smith (@Allison2Names) September 13, 2017