Far-right white nationalist Richard Spencer and his supporters convened Saturday night in downtown Charlottesville, Va., chanting “You will not replace us!” as they encircled a statue of Robert E. Lee with tiki torches.
The rally appeared to draw about two dozen men in khaki pants and white shirts, according to social-media posts of people who attended or witnessed the event. The display had no sign of the violence that marked the Aug. 11-12 Unite the Right rally in the city that is home to the University of Virginia.
Spencer headlined that rally, which left one woman dead during clashes with counter-protesters.
The Charlottesville statue of the Confederacy's most famous general has become a flash point for clashes between far-right groups, including the Ku Klux Klan and white nationalists, and counter-protesters often known as “Antifa,” an anti-fascist umbrella organization.
Charlottesville's Lee statue has been draped in black following vandalism and Charlottesville City Council's effort to have it removed and the park where it is located renamed. That removal is on hold pending a court challenge.
The Saturday night rally appeared to be the first of a new string of Spencer-connected rallies and speeches across the South in the next month, including a planned Oct. 19 appearance at the University of Florida. As a sign of the sensitivity of the issue, the university set up a webpage providing detailed information about the event — and saying the school's decision was based on First Amendment grounds, The News Service of Florida reported.
Spencer was supposed to speak at the university in September, but the event was delayed because of security concerns and then followed with a free-speech lawsuit.
As a state entity, UF must allow the free expression of speech,” the university said in a statement posted to its website earlier this week. “We cannot prohibit groups or individuals from speaking in our public forums except for limited exceptions, which include safety and security.
Our decision to disallow the September event was based on specific threats and a date that fell soon after the Charlottesville event. Allowing Spencer to speak in October provided additional time to make significant security arrangements.
Another white supremacist rally is scheduled Oct. 28 in Shelbyville, Tenn., organized by the Nationalist Front.