White nationalist Richard Spencer led a large group of demonstrators carrying torches and chanting “You will not replace us” on Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia, protesting plans to remove a Confederate monument in a city park.
“I’m here to take part in this great celebration of our heritage and to say ‘no’ to the city of Charlottesville. You’re not going to tear down our statue and you’re not going to replace us,” Spencer told NBC local affiliate WVIR. The group chanted “All White Lives Matter” and said they were protecting their “white heritage” from the Charlottesville City Council’s decision to remove a statue in the Virginia town’s park, according to NBC.
Spencer attended the University of Virginia, which is located in Charlottesville sought to portray the protests as a peaceful display of force. But for some observers, they evoked “the days of the KKK,” in the words of Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer. (Signer, who identifies as Jewish, actually opposed removing the statues.)
Other prominent “alt-right” figures were in attendance at an earlier speaking event, including Nathan Damigo of Identity Evropa, who recently made headlines after punching an anti-fascist protestor in the face in a video that was widely circulated.
The blogger Mike Enoch, who helped popularize the triple parenthesis meme known as “echoes”—((()))— to signal Jews or perceived Jewish influence, also spoke.
“It’s only our stuff that gets taken down. It’s only our ancestors, only our heroes that get taken down,” Enoch said.
Sam Kestenbaum is a contributing editor and former staff writer for the Forward. Before this, he worked for The New York Times and newsrooms in Sana, Ramallah and Beijing. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum and on Instagram at @skestenbaum .