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Charlottesville Officials Present Plans to Offset KKK Group's Rally

Posted: Updated: Jun 20, 2017 05:10 PM
Charlottesville officials holding a news conference on how the city plans to protect the community during a scheduled rally by a KKK group Charlottesville officials holding a news conference on how the city plans to protect the community during a scheduled rally by a KKK group
Statue of Confederate General Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson in downtown Charlottesville (FILE IMAGE) Statue of Confederate General Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson in downtown Charlottesville (FILE IMAGE)
Charlottesville Circuit Court (FILE IMAGE) Charlottesville Circuit Court (FILE IMAGE)
Statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in downtown Charlottesville Statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in downtown Charlottesville
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

Charlottesville is laying out its plan to protect the community and prevent violence during a scheduled rally by the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

“I hope that July 8 will be remembered as a day of unity, not a day of hate and fear. Fear will not define this community,” said Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas.

Thomas was joined by members of the Charlottesville City Council, City Manager Maurice Jones, and others for a press conference at CitySpace Tuesday, June 20.

“Law enforcement has a responsibility to ensure that free speech is enabled no matter how much we disagree with the message,” the police chief said.

“The city of Charlottesville will keep our people safe in the coming weeks,” said Mayor Mike Signer.

Officials discussed the city's plan to keep people safe during the North Carolina-based group’s planned rally at Justice Park, which contains the statue of Confederate General Thomas Johnathan "Stonewall" Jackson.

The group had originally filed paperwork to hold its rally at the steps of Charlottesville Circuit Court on Saturday, July 8, and estimated 100 people will attend the event. A city spokesperson said the rally has been moved to Justice Park due to space consideration.

“Let the KKK preach their hate to the trees and the birds. The worst outcome the KKK can have is for us to ignore them,” Charlottesville City Councilor Bob Fenwick said.

The rally is in response to City Council's 3-2 vote on February 6 to remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and renamed Lee Park. A similar vote on April 17 approved plans to sell the statue to an educational institution, museum, or nonprofit group. Lee Park is now called Emancipation Park.

Hundreds of people gathered at Mount Zion First African Baptist Church on Tuesday, June 13, to organize a strategy for community members to ignore the rally and avoid inciting violence.

“Our aim is that the summer of 2017 be the beginning of the end of racism, exclusion, white supremacy, and hate in our community," said Pastor Elaine Thomas with the Charlottesville Clergy Collective.

Several groups and churches are planning alternative events at the same time as July’s rally. Four different events are currently in the works to celebrate the Charlottesville community. Those possible events include a concert at the Sprint Pavilion, a discussion on race at the Jefferson School, and a community picnic at the Ix Art Park.

“We believe in access. We believe in dialogue. We believe in support,” Jefferson School African-American Heritage Center Director Andrea Douglas said.

“As long as you are celebrating love and friendship, you are welcome at the Ix Art Park. It will be a day where we celebrate community,” said Susan Krischel with the Ix Art Park.

Charlottesville's faith community is inviting anyone interested in planning for that day to attend a community meeting at Mount Zion First African Baptist Church at 6 p.m. Monday, June 26.

Chief Thomas is urging people who disagree with the KKK to stay away from the rally in Justice Park.