Faith Community Blessing Justice Park Ahead of Planned Rally
The Charlottesville community continues to prepare for a planned rally Saturday by the Loyal White Knights of the KKK. Religious members are trying to overpower the hate group with prayer.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The Charlottesville community continues to prepare for a planned rally Saturday by the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
The Charlottesville Clergy Collective is trying to drown out that hate with prayer. Every day at noon, clergy and community members are meeting in Justice Park by the statue of Confederate General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson.
“Our plan is to soak this ground with prayer. We believe the power of prayer has the ability to create good, positive energy in light of the hate that's coming to town,” said Reverend Elaine Ellis Thomas with St. Paul's Memorial Episcopal Church.
Members pray, meditate, and offer blessings for the park space before supporters of the KKK rallies there Saturday, July 8.
“It's a way of hallowing the space and creating sacred space here that everyone will know God is present here,” Thomas said.
The rally by the hate group is in response to Charlottesville City Council's 3-2 vote on February 6 to remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and rename 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.
“The only difference between this Klan - the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan - and the Klan you think of in the 20s is simply time and political environment,” said Southern Poverty Law Center Senior Investigative Reporter Ryan Lenz.
A flyer calls on the Klan's supporters to Charlottesville to "stand" for southern history. Paperwork filed by the Loyal White Knights of the KKK indicates that the group estimates 100 people will attend in support of the event.
Lenz said rallies by KKK groups rarely attract as many supporters as they boast about. Though, he reminds people of the Klan's violent history and rhetoric that could lead to violence: "These rallies tend to serve in some respects as sort of trollish [sic] moments. They're looking for a reaction. They're hoping communities overreact.”
Reverend Thomas plans to respond with the power of prayer. “It can even change minds and hearts, we truly believe that. So that maybe some of those who do show up here with more hateful or evil intentions might actually be changed by that.”
Several groups are holding alternative events at the same time as Saturday's rally, including:
- Unity Cville Concert at the Sprint Pavilion.
- The People's Picnic at Ix Art Park.
- Unity Day at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center.
- Charlottesville Unites at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center.
- Celebration of Naidoc Week at the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection.
The Charlottesville Clergy Collective invites people to join its noon prayer sessions leading up to Saturday. Members plan to pray in Justice Park before and after the Klan’s rally. They hope to surround the park as they continue to pray and sing during the weekend event.
However, Charlottesville Police Chief Thomas is urging people who disagree with the KKK to stay away from the rally in Justice Park.