Charlottesville,Virginia, residents took over a city council meeting last night (August 21)—the first since the city endured the White supremacist “Unite the Right” rally—with heartfelt critiques of the local government’s handling of the lethal racist protests. Their actions resulted in three arrests and a council vote to cover the remaining Confederate monuments, including the Robert E. Lee statue that ”Unite the Right’s” participants rallied to keep standing after it was marked for removal, in opaque black fabric.
The above photos from local paper The Daily Progress show almost 100 Black and White city residents taking over the meeting to admonish city government. The outlet adds that several attendees confronted city council members and called for Mayor Mike Singer’s resignation. University of Virginia scholar Jalene Schmidt caught the following image featuring activists who stood on the council’s dais and brandished a banner reading, “BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS”:
The New York Times reports that the protesters specifically called the city out for allowing “Unite the Right” to take place, as well as the city and state police for not stopping White supremacists’ violence against counter-protesters. According to The Daily Progress, city police then entered the room and arrested three protesters: Donna Gasapo Gray, who was charged with disorderly conduct, and Mark Heisey and Sara Michel Tansey, each charged with obstruction of justice. The Times’ Francis Robles tweeted the following video of residents calling for their release:
People demand the release of ejected patrons. pic.twitter.com/0iLohwThwr— Frances Robles (@FrancesRobles) August 21, 2017
The Times says that Singer and most council members left the room as the residents chanted, leaving Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy—the lone Black member—to restore order. Local station NBC 29 reports that Bellamy said the arrested protesters would be released. Neither the city council nor the Charlottesville Police Department have confirmed that report as of press time.
The Times says the meeting then reconvened a half-hour later, with Singer present, for a town hall-style public hearing. The restructured meeting stretched several hours into early Tuesday (August 22) morning as residents aired their grievances and anguish.
“You had multiple opportunities to intervene and you did not intervene one time,” said one unidentified man as quoted by local station NBC 29. “We told you exactly what you needed to do, and you did nothing.”
The Times adds that the town hall eventually ended with City Manager Maurice Jones promising a third-party review of the city’s response. The council unanimously voted to remove Charlottesville’s other Confederate monument—a statue of general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson—and to cover that and the Lee statue in black. The color symbolizes mourning for Heather Heyer, the woman killed when White supremacist James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters on August 12.