David McNair

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The Lee Statue in Charlottesville: from Tulips to Terror in a few short years

In Activism, History, People, Politics on October 16, 2017 at 2:48 pm

Occupy Charlottesville protesters occupied Lee Park in 2011, and while that created a lot of local controversy, the Lee statue loomed quietly over the affair. photo: Dave McNair/The Hook

By David McNair

Now that the symbolism of the statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia has literally exploded into our consciousness, it’s easy to forget how blind we were to it just a short time ago. The truth is, only a few years before the idea of removing the Lee statue became an issue, you’d have been hard pressed to find many people in town, especially white people, who thought of the statue as being even remotely controversial. In fact, if you’d of made an argument that it was controversial you’d have likely been causally dismissed. Eugene Williams, a local civil rights activist and icon, argued for years that the statues, and other monuments like the slave block plaque at Court Square, needed to be historically repurposed to better commemorate the dark past associated with them.  And while there were certainly thoughtful people here who agreed with him, there was neither the political will or popular concern to do anything about it.

Remember when Occupy Charlottesville, our local version of the Occupy Wall Street movement, occupied Lee Park in 2011? Right beneath the Lee statue I remember talking to people who were as mad as hell about the widening gap between rich and poor, and with the predatory practices of the government bailed-out banking industry, but I don’t remember hearing even a casual reference to the symbolism of the Lee statue.

Likewise, in 2009, the City responded to concerns that Sacajawea’s representation on the Lewis & Clark monument, crouched beneath the two men in bronze, underplayed her importance to the expedition, by commissioning a special plaque to her, and invited two of Sacajawea’s descendent to author the text. The city also invited several of Sacajawea’s descendants from Idaho to an afternoon dedication ceremony for the plaque. But I don’t recall anyone expressing any concern about the Lee statue just a few blocks away.

On an April day in 2012, The Hook’s only concern about the Lee statue was that the tulips planted around it were coming up earlier: “When we photographed General Robert E. Lee two years ago at tulip time, that picture was taken on April 20,” said a Snap-o-the-Day feature. “ This year, General Lee’s tulips are at peak April 2, lending some credence to observations that blooms are about three weeks earlier this spring.”

Seriously, the absence of any kind of controversy surrounding the statue, just five years ago, was profound and deeply rooted. Indeed, so deeply rooted that there are people who still don’t understand what all the fuss is about it now.

But what a fuss there has been. Events already detailed by The DTM inflamed what had been a pretty civil debate about what to do about our Confederate statues, once a 15-year old African-American student and a 30-year old African-American Vice Mayor made the idea of removing or repurposing the statues and issue — nearly 100 years after they went up, we might add. But by the time the weekend of August 12, 2017 rolled around the tensions surrounding the decision by City Council to remove the Lee statue had already reached a fever pitch.

How —when just five years ago our only concern about the Lee statue was the fact that the tulips planted around it had come up early — did we get to a point where people would be killed over it?

Ira Bashkow, an Associate Professor of Anthropology at UVA, recently wrote a smart analysis of what happened in Charlottesville on August 11 and 12, and what we might learn from it.

“And to many Charlottesville locals, the statue they were defending is itself a relic of racial intimidation,” he writes. “It was erected in a year, 1924, when the Ku Klux Klan held open parades in Charlottesville and burned at least 10 crosses, some near historically black neighborhoods, and when Virginia enacted its infamous Racial Integrity Act, prohibiting interracial marriage by the “one drop rule.” The statue is in fact an artifact of that resurgent white supremacy movement, which invented the idealized vision of the Confederate “lost cause” while subjecting blacks to tightened Jim Crow legal restrictions, segregation, disenfranchisement, and racial terror.”

All true about the origins of the statue, but as we already mentioned, “many Charlottesville locals” had not bothered to really see the statue for what it was, to feel what it was, and instead intellectualized its history and meaning. However, the effort to have it removed lifted the veil on what was right in front of us all along, and it wasn’t pretty.

“Although life has outwardly returned to normal, many who reside here remain deeply troubled by the intense racially motivated violence that took place in spaces and streets we traverse every day,” Bashkow writes. “ The overtness of the racism has exposed old wounds and pressurized old fissures. We are not only feeling the effects of the explicit trauma, we are also experiencing moral trauma: Many in the community are troubled by our own internal conflicts and by the shortcomings—grasped only in hindsight—of our collective response to the extraordinary challenges of those two days.”

Again, all true, but how can we be suddenly surprised and troubled by the “racially motivated violence” that takes place in the “spaces and streets we traverse everyday” when embedded in one of those streets we traverse everyday, just blocks from the Lee statue, is a plaque marking the spot of a slave auction block, and that just blocks in the other direction is an entire African-American neighborhood that was demolished without a trace?

This has been a long-time coming, and we’re finally feeling the pain, which is perhaps why we chose not to see it for so long. And the hard part now? There’s no going back.

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2017 Best of the DTM Awards

In business, Fashion, Food & Wine, Music, Opinion, Polls, Shopping on September 27, 2017 at 9:55 am

Thanks to all who voted this year. And here are the results. A few changes from last year’s selections. Congratulations to all the winners!

DTM’s Best Coffee Shop

1st Place – Mudhouse
2nd Place –Java Java Cafe
3rd Place – Grit Coffee

DTM’s Best Retail Shop

1st Place – O’suzannah
2nd Place – Low Vintage
3rd Place – Bittersweet

DTM’s Best Music/Night Spot

1st Place – The Jefferson Theater
2nd Place – The Southern
3rd Place – Rapture

DTM’s Best Restaurant

1st Place – Brasserie Saison
2nd Place – The Alley Light
3rd Place – The C&O Restaurant

Why Charlottesville? How a Facebook comment, an unknown blogger, and some old tweets inflamed a debate about race and monuments

In Activism, History, People, Politics, UVA on August 25, 2017 at 11:53 am

By David McNair

On October 4 last year the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia hosted a free event featuring Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, for which local best-selling author John Grisham was the emcee. There was a packed house for the event, “Rooting Out Injustice: Poverty, Race and the Role of Legal Aid,” and Garza got the kind of welcome you’d expect in a liberal town like Charlottesville. She spoke about combating the concept of white supremacy and how institutional racism affects people of color in our justice and educational systems.

At the time, if you told people in Charlottesville that hundreds of angry white supremacists and neo-nazis would rally in a park just steps away from the theater the following summer, they’d have thought you were crazy. Read the rest of this entry »

From Comedy to Tragedy: what I saw at the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville

In Activism, Crime, Events, People, Politics, Safety, Uncategorized on August 17, 2017 at 1:57 pm

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By David McNair

The first thing I saw when I approached the Unite the Right rally on Saturday, August 12 here in Charlottesville was a guy across from Market Street Market selling bottled water for $2 out of his car, saying, “I figured I had to make the most of it.” The next thing I saw were a group of Unite the Right protesters gathered on the corner of Market Street and 3rd Street NE, dressed like middle-schoolers going to a war games-themed birthday party, with make-shift helmets, shields, and batons. All this was at first quite comical. The group paused on the corner for a moment, issued an obscure kind of war cry, and marched fast toward the park with various photographers running backwards quickly trying to capture the action.

At the park, the Unite the Right protesters had already gathered in a double fenced off section of the park, and you could stand and view them like exotic animals in a zoo. They all faced outward, pressing against the steel fencing, and harassed and verbally abused onlookers, many of whom returned the favor. There was a lot of vulgar harassment of women from the group, and I heard one guy say to a woman, “You’re a little chubby around the edges, but I’d f##k you, Bitch.” There were women with them, too, and I noticed how they had no expressions on their faces as the men they were with said this stuff. Still, it all seemed comical. Were these guys serious? Meanwhile, I spotted what appeared to be self-styled, bearded militiamen walking around in fatigues and assault rifles with odd assortments of insignia on their “uniforms.” They all looked very serious, and no one I spoke to could tell me exactly why they were there, but at that point their inscrutable countenance seemed comical, too. Were they expecting some kind of armed ambush from some opposing guerrilla army? Meanwhile, various public officials and notable citizens milled about, seeming a little amused by this particular circus that came to town. They could stand safely at the edge of the fencing around the park and observe various white supremacists and neo-nazis spewing slogans and insulting people. I saw friends and colleagues and we had time to chat. A couple of local guys had thought to put loud speakers on the top of a nearby building, and they had the words of James Baldwin playing in a continuous loop. Nearby a guy had set up an easel and he was painting comic book-style portraits of Robert E. Lee and Donald Trump.

20708191_1686411471433314_8139878792168219992_nOn the steps to the Market Street entrance to the park a group of clergy, including Harvard scholar Dr. Cornell West, blocked the entrance and quietly demanded that the Unite the Right protesters gathered below them “stand down” and not enter the park. this standoff went of for a few moments, until the Unite the Right protesters finally walked up the steps and pushed them violently aside.

That’s when things seemed to shift, that’s when it started not to be so comical. Fights in the street broke out shortly after that between Unite the Right protesters and counter-protesters. And over the next 45 minutes or so that intensified. At one point I was standing beside one of Charlottesville’s city councilors as he tried to film the scene, and had to nudge him aside as a smoke bomb canister came hurling toward us. Rocks, tear gas, bottles filled with bleach, and balloons filled with urine would follow. I saw bloodied heads and faces. I saw scared people running past me, other who looked like they would gladly smash you in the face if you looked them. A saw a TV crew flee the tent they had set up under across the park. I watched as an African-American TV camera man tried to put his camera on a tripod, but was having trouble because his hands were shaking so much. I heard someone say, “The cops have vanished.” And sure enough, I looked around and the state police who had been standing along the fencing earlier were gone.

20728279_1686410811433380_2776422500373341158_nI then looked up and a screaming, angry mob of white supremacists and neo-nazis had totally taken over the park, ringing its edges with their home-made riot gear. Not only was this not comical anymore, it was frightening. Why weren’t police stepping in now? At that point, you knew something bad was about to happen, that people were going to get hurt, that a surge of violent energy had been let loose on our town. Within the hour, three people would be dead, and dozens injured.

Nazis invade Charlottesvillle, DTM

In Activism, Crime, Events, Politics, UVA, Video on August 15, 2017 at 9:15 am

This Vice report pretty much tells you all you need to know about what happened in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017.

 

Hugged & Shoved: hugging protester says she was roughed up by city police

In Activism, Events on July 10, 2017 at 12:17 am

At Saturday’s Klan Rally Protest, Charlottesville resident Heather Rose Ratesic Dorsey, who was there to protest the Klan, gave one of the state troopers guarding an entrance way for the Klan a hug (see photo left).

“I have always been taught to respect everyone and I am sure that they needed more than a hug at that point,” says Dorsey.

About an hour later, however, after the Klan had left, Dorsey was shoved to the ground by a city cop (number 67) while standing on the north sidewalk of High Street.

“I wasn’t doing anything when someone behind me stepped on my flip flop,” she says. ” I turned around, it was a cop. I asked him to get off my shoe and he grabbed my arm and threw me to the ground.”

She suffered wounds to her arm (see photo right), had her flip-flop broken, and was treated and released at MedExpress. Dorsey says a city police sergeant came to her house that night to take pictures and file a report.

Dorsey says she’ll turn in a required handwritten complaint form on Monday, and pursue things from there. But the experience has rattled her in confusing ways. She says the photo of her hugging the trooper cause some unexpected backlash. Liberal FB friends called her a racist for hugging the trooper and unfriended her.

“I wasn’t there for a fight,” says Dorsey. “My emotions are all over the place. It’s like a nightmare to be honest.”

Charlotesville Klan Rally Protest

In Uncategorized on July 9, 2017 at 8:55 pm

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Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan…not a bright bunch

In Uncategorized on July 6, 2017 at 3:33 pm

From the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan home page. One danger involved in attending their planned rally here this Saturday, July 8, that hasn’t been discussed: the risk to your mental health being around this much stupid.

“…July 8th in Virginia we will make a stand for our Southern History. They are trying to erase whites and our great culture right out of the history books. The Civil War was not fought over Slavery but over high taxes put on the South by the North. The whites did not make the blacks slaves; their own people captured them and sold them to Jewish merchants and they sold them. Blacks should be thankful because those who did not get sold were ate. People look into this for yourself read a book. If you want to stand with us for our great Confederate dead email us. It is time whites in America unite blacks have the Black Panthers the terrorist group Black Lives Matters. The Mexicans have La Raza and the Jews have the ADL and the S.P.L.C. Whites you have the Loyal White Knights fighting for equal rights for whites. Stand with us July 8th make your stand in Dixie land. Call 336-432-0386…”

Local Blogger Uses Florida Woman’s Indentity to Create Petition to Remove Wes Bellamy From City Council

In Uncategorized on November 30, 2016 at 10:53 am

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A petition being widely circulated in the local media to remove Vice-Mayor Wes Belamy from Charlottesville City Council, and which features many comments from citizens, appears to be a fake [note: since the date of this posting the petition has been altered. See developing news below. The screen shot above is off the petition on the date and time of this posting]. The petition says it was created by a Michelle Jones, and includes a picture of Ms. Jones. That photo is from the bio page of a Florida-based company called Altair Training Solutions, and is of the company’s Executive Vice President Michelle Jones.

“I was not aware of it and did not start the petition,” Jones tells the DTM. “I know nothing about it. I’ve obviously been hacked.”

StandUnited, the petition platform, has been informed of the identity theft.

Jason Kessler, the blogger who exposed Bellamy’s tweets has been promoting the petition on social media.

Developing news:

1:02pm. Another stolen photo has replaced the one of Ms. Jones on the petition.

1:31pm: Now the author of the petition has been changed to none other than…Jason Kessler.

December 1, 2016Daily Progress on Jason Kessler’s sock puppetry concerning the petition to have Wes Bellamy removed from City Council…

petiotion

Pro-White Blogger Stalks Black City Councilor on Twitter

In Uncategorized on November 29, 2016 at 3:16 pm

Charlottesville’s Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy will have to live with, and be judged by the tweets he posted in his youth, but..

As long as we’re sharing without permission…

In case you wondered why blogger, self-published author, wannabe filmmaker, and oppressed white man, Jason Kessler, would take the time to dig through thousands of old twitter posts to publicly humiliate an African-American city councilor….

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“The Democrats are essentially the “Unite to Get Whitey” party. There will come a time when white people understand that they also need to stick together as a political force. Otherwise we’ll keep being bombarded by anti-white media & anti-white laws.

We’re going to be a minority soon & we’re already treated like one. Don’t think we aren’t going to be oppressed more & more if we can’t stand up for ourselves.

Cultures, tribes & civilizations are meant to clash just as we always have in the past, just like it is with nearly every other beast in the animal kingdom. We are beasts. We share 99% of our DNA with bonobos and almost as much with the other Great Apes.”

http://www.jasonkessler.net/blog/how-i-feel-after-beyonces-racist-superbowl-performance

Or maybe he was just unlucky with women?

“There is an imbalance here as it pertains to the sexes. Men are predominantly the ones actively seeking love while the women decide to either accept the offer, take a pass, or (less often it should be noted) hold them in the lurch until such time as they become a usefully fool to manipulate . This opens the man up to at worst, being taken advantage of by unscrupulous women & at best, if the woman is just, pressured to present his “capacity for love” with showy displays of conspicuous spending, in her favor of course.”
http://www.jasonkessler.net/blog/would-you-rather-have-love-or-respect

Perhaps it was ambition?

“Following my groundbreaking investigative journalism of Charlottesville Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy…” (Since when did stalking someone on their public twitter account become investigative journalism?)

Or, you know, maybe he’s just a prick.

More deep thoughts from Mr. Kessler…

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