UVA President and Students Respond to Covering of Jefferson Statue
On the night of Tuesday, September 12, protestors gathered at the University of Virginia and shrouded the statue of Thomas Jefferson to denounce white supremacy.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The shroud covering the Thomas Jefferson statue at the University of Virginia is gone, but controversy over Tuesday night's protest rages on.
On the night of Tuesday, September 12, protesters gathered at the University of Virginia and shrouded the statue of Thomas Jefferson to denounce white supremacy.
In a press release issued on Wednesday, September 13, UVA President Teresa Sullivan says she strongly disagrees with the demonstrators' actions but recognizes there is more work to be done to make the school more inclusive. The full press release is below.
This protest marked one month since the August 12 Unite the Right rally that took place in downtown Charlottesville.
This time, the protest was put on by a group of UVA students, faculty, and members of the Charlottesville community who have a list of demands from the university.
Protesters numbered around 100 and turned out with Black Lives Matter signs around 8 p.m. on Tuesday. The group used a tarp to cover the statue of Thomas Jefferson that sits in front of the UVA Rotunda.
Three people were on the statue and a sign on top of the covering read: "TJ is a racist and rapist."
On the ground, members in the group read a list of demands which included removing the Confederate plaques on the Rotunda and banning white supremacist hate groups from grounds, calling out UVA alumni Jason Kessler and Richard Spencer specifically.
Spencer and Kessler were organizers involved in white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville this summer.
Students involved say that the list of demands currently stands at 12 items that deal with how to make the University of Virginia more inclusive. One item calls for the university to place plaques around the Jefferson statue contextualizing his legacy and reminding people that he was a slave-owner.
They feel that the university currently only acknowledges the good parts of Jefferson's legacy.
"We thought that shrouding Thomas Jefferson would be great symbolic action to address the fact that white supremacists saw that statue as a rallying point on the 11th," says Ken King, a fourth-year student who participated in the shrouding.
In regards to Sullivan's response, the group UVA Students United says it made them feel unsupported and slandered.
"The implications of the email were that we were a bunch of rowdy students who were drunk and decided to shroud the statue when in reality the person who was arrested is affiliated with white supremacists groups. We were there with community members, with...my parents were there, we were a put together group who were very intentional about what we did," Caroline in UVA Students United said.
The student went on to say she thinks Sullivan's email was "very divisive."
Sullivan says the university is trying to acknowledge this part of Jefferson's history.
The group's list of demands will be presented to the Board of Visitors meeting on Friday. Student protesters say they are not satisfied with Sullivan's response and they will only be satisfied if their demands are taken seriously.
Both Republicans and Democrats are speaking out about what happened to the Jefferson statue. including united states senator tim kaine.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) weighed in, saying,
"I don't think there's a way to erase Jefferson's legacy from the University of Virginia because you wouldn't have a university without Thomas Jefferson, but I think the university is doing some good listening and it needs to continue to do that and I'm sure it'll find the answer that continues to tell the story of who this university is and Thomas Jefferson's role in it."
Republican Party of Virginia Chairman John Whitbeck issued the following statement:
"The vandalism of the Thomas Jefferson statue at the University of Virginia is the next step in the extreme left's movement to erase our history. The defacing of our historical monuments is not free speech, it is a criminal offense, plain and simple."