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Protesters Block Republican Candidate's Rally at Lee Park Statue

Posted: Updated: Feb 11, 2017 04:39 PM
Corey Stewart at his rally in Lee Park surrounded by protesters Corey Stewart at his rally in Lee Park surrounded by protesters
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

A trip to Charlottesville didn't quite go as planned for one of the candidates running to be Virginia's next governor.

Republican Corey Stewart made a stop in the city's Lee Park Saturday. He was hoping to speak about the statue of Robert E. Lee, but ran into a large group of protesters.

Some brought signs, others carried flags.

"Hopefully I can help protect a little bit of history," Eddie Crowder said.

Charlottesville City Council voted this week to remove and move the monument.

"This is a statue for someone who fought to preserve slavery," Herb Stahl said.

Stewart, the former Virginia Chair for Donald Trump's presidential campaign, came to Charlottesville with the plan to broadcast his rally on Facebook Live. The protesters made that difficult, blocking Stewart’s way at times.

"People want to shut down the First Amendment, and this is a symbol of everything that is wrong with all these punks that are here who have never done anything for this country, and who hate the country," Stewart said.

Annie Haile says she's worried about leadership in Richmond turning into what she's seeing in Washington, D.C. "This person who is here today to visit said he was Trump before Trump, and he thinks that the statue should stay," she said.

"These are punks, these don't represent the people of Charlottesville, and all they can do is try to shut down free speech and that's what they're trying to do today," Stewart said.

Charlottesville City Councilor Kristin Szakos weighed in on Stewart coming to town to voice his thoughts on the statue's removal.

"I was a little disappointed. I wasn't there so I can't speak for what happened at Lee Park. But this is a local issue and it seems kind of strange to have somebody running for governor specifically coming to Charlottesville to speak out about this issue," Szakos said.

Council gave city staff 60 days to come up with a plan to move the statue and rename Lee Park.

Stewart hasn't been the only candidate who's weighed in on the statue. Republican Denver Riggleman said earlier this week he opposes the move. Democrat Tom Perriello told NBC29 he supports it.

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