Torch-bearing protesters march to defend Confederate statue in Virginia

Torches at a protest in Charlottesville, VA
(Image credit: The Daily Progress/Screenshot)

Several dozen protesters carrying torches marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, Saturday evening, led by self-described white nationalist Richard Spencer, the creator of the term "alt-right." Chanting "you will not replace us" and "blood and soil," the latter a phrase with Nazi origins, the group rallied to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. After about 10 minutes, the crowd was dispersed by police and counter-protesters.

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"No reason why we can't celebrate the history that has brought us to the glorious future that we are emboldened in now," said one protester, Orry Von Dize, in an interview with a local NBC affiliate. "We're not white supremacists," he added. "We are simply just white people that love our heritage, our culture, our European identity." Spencer likewise told supporters they were united by being white while speaking at a longer rally earlier Saturday.

Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signor issued a statement condemning the protest. "This event involving torches at night in Lee Park was either profoundly ignorant or was designed to instill fear in our minority populations in a way that hearkens back to the days of the KKK," he said. "Either way, as mayor of this city, I want everyone to know this: We reject this intimidation."

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Bonnie Kristian

Bonnie Kristian was a deputy editor and acting editor-in-chief of She is a columnist at Christianity Today and author of Untrustworthy: The Knowledge Crisis Breaking Our Brains, Polluting Our Politics, and Corrupting Christian Community (forthcoming 2022) and A Flexible Faith: Rethinking What It Means to Follow Jesus Today (2018). Her writing has also appeared at Time Magazine, CNN, USA Today, Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, and The American Conservative, among other outlets.