A planned demonstration by white supremacy groups in Virginia is being described as the “largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades in the United States” by a monitoring group.
White nationalist extremists plan to protest on Saturday the removal of a Confederate-era Gen. Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, in a move expected to draw thousands, according to reports. White supremacy groups, like the Ku Klux Klan, have been “emboldened by the Trump presidency,” according to nonprofit civil rights group the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
The “summer of hate” gathering is expected to lure alt-right groups, neo-Confederates, KKK members and neo-Nazis from behind their computers and keyboards and into the streets, creating a unity the groups can only achieve by personal, nonanonymous connections.
“This is the biggest rally event we’ve had this millennium,” event organizer Brad Griffin said on a recent radio showed hosted by former KKK leader David Duke.
But the Unite the Right rally will give “the movement a real-world presence, which it hasn’t had in 15 years,” Griffin added.
Law enforcement anticipates counter-protests and the city said the protest permit will only be approved if the event is moved to McIntire Park where the crowd size could be more easily managed, the Richmond-Times Dispatch reported.
Rally organizer Jason Kessler said the rally must take place in Emancipation Park, recently renamed from Lee Park, where the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that has stood since the 1920s.
“The whole thing is in support of the Lee monument,” Kessler told the Dispatch. “The fact that they’d try and move it away from the statue is, in itself, a violation of our free speech rights.”
Kessler said he is ready to pursue legal action rather than acquiesce.
“There is no doubt that Mr. Kessler has a First Amendment right to hold a demonstration and to express his views. Nor is there any doubt that we, as a city, have an obligation to protect those rights, the people who seek to exercise them and the broader community in which they do,” City Manager Maurice Jones told the Dispatch. “We have determined that we cannot do all of these things effectively if the demonstration is held in Emancipation Park.”
According to Gizmodo, some who plan to attend this weekend’s rally are having a hard time finding Airbnb accommodations. The company appears to be cancelling any accounts it deems part of the rally.
In a statement obtained by Gizmodo, an Airbnb spokesperson confirmed the company’s intentions:
“In 2016, we established the Airbnb Community Commitment reflecting our belief that to make good on our mission of belonging, those who are members of the Airbnb community accept people regardless of their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age. We asked all members of the Airbnb to affirmatively sign on to this commitment. When through our background check processes or from input of our community we identify and determine that there are those who would be pursuing behavior on the platform that would be antithetical to the Airbnb Community Commitment, we seek to take appropriate action including, as in this case, removing them from the platform.”
Looks like Airbnb is permanently deactivating the account of anyone booking a room in Charlottesville if they think it’s for the rally. Gay! pic.twitter.com/O1NTzwWpuu
— Illegal Aryan (@Illegal_Aryan) August 6, 2017
Canceled my account with airbnb pic.twitter.com/CBwhN6lB0s
— Cracker Factory (@EarthBoisRDumb) August 6, 2017