Political activist Cornel West and faith leaders from around the country will join Charlottesville-area clergy members later this month to confront a gathering of white nationalists who will be protesting the planned removal of the city’s statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park.
At a news conference outside St. Paul’s Memorial Church on Monday, members of Congregate C’ville discussed their counter-protest plans. They also shared a news release that quoted West saying he is coming to the city to “stand against white supremacy and bear witness to love and justice.”
According to Brittany Caine-Conley, lead organizer for Congregate C’ville, the interfaith coalition issued a call for 1,000 clergy and faith leaders to come to Charlottesville for the Unite the Right rally Aug. 12.
Other faith leaders who are expected to be in Charlottesville that week include the Rev. Traci Blackmon, Lisa Sharon Harper, Robyn Henderson-Espinoza and Brian McLaren.
“We will stand in solidarity against the waves of racist, sexist and homophobic harassment and violence white supremacist ideologies are manifesting nationwide,” the release said.
In an interview following Monday’s news conference, Caine-Conley said the rally will be “an overt display of folks who are trying to make the white race the dominant race.”
Unite the Right is being organized by Jason Kessler, a local “pro-white” activist.
The rally will feature various white nationalist organizations and leaders who advocate for the creation of a white “ethno-state.” The rally’s organizers and sponsors are affiliated with the National Socialist Movement and the “alt-right,” a populist movement that mixes elements of racism, anti-Semitism and white nationalism.
“They’ve said quite clearly that they’re about white power, white justice and white rights,” Caine-Conley said. “White supremacy has a grip on most of the things that are foundational in this country.”
Members of Congregate C’ville said they will be present at the Aug. 12 rally to participate in a “direct, non-violent action.” They said other events will be held in the days before the event to prepare those who might join them.
With radical leftists expected to protest the rally, as well, increasing the chance for violent clashes, the Rev. Seth Wispelwey, of Restoration Village Arts, said the group will be helping to organize their followers and other clergy members to be “disciplined and prayerfully present.”
After a North Carolina chapter of the Ku Klux Klan held a rally in Charlottesville on July 8 to protest the planned removal of the Lee statue, Wispelwey said, more people approached the new interfaith organization asking for instruction on how to peacefully lead their own congregations in protest.
“Since then, we’ve heard a very vocal need from the community and clergy themselves saying, ‘I want to be more prepared next time,’” he said.
“Congregate has taken on that role,” he said. “We’re sort of like a school for public witness.”
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SOURCE: Richmond Times-Dispatch / The Daily Progress – Chris Suarez