Tom Lever and Aaliyah Jones, both of Charlottesville, Va., put up a sign that reads "Heather Heyer Park" at the base of the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee monument in Emancipation Park on Tuesday, in Charlottesville, Va.

Credit: Julia Rendleman

Mourners To Honor Charlottesville Victim, States Debate Confederate Statues

August 16, 2017

The aftermath of the violent protest and counterprotests in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend continue to reverberate across the country — sparking discussions about race and the country's Civil War past.

Mourners will gather in Charlottesville on Wednesday to remember Heather Heyer, who was killed on Saturday when a car rammed into a crowd of people protesting the white nationalist rally. Attendees were asked to wear purple, Heyer's favorite color, in her memory.

On Tuesday, two sisters who say they were injured when the car was driven into the crowd filed a lawsuit against the driver and others. They are seeking $3 million in damages.

Reuters reports:

"Tadrint Washington and Micah Washington said in papers filed in Charlottesville circuit court that they had been among the people hurt when James Alex Fields drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one.

"They had been driving home and their car was struck by Fields car, and some of his pedestrian victims were also hurled onto their vehicle, the lawsuit said.

"The lawsuit names Fields, "Unite the Right" rally organizer Jason Kessler and about two dozen alt-right leaders and organizations as defendants."

Fields, 20, has been charged with second-degree murder for killing Heather Heyer with his car and additional charges for the other 19 people injured. He was denied bail at a Monday court hearing.

At a news conference on Tuesday, President Trump called Fields a "murderer and what he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing." But he didn't call it domestic terrorism as did Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Trump took heat after that news conference for reverting to his original position and blamed both sides for the violence in Charlottesville.

As NPR's Politics team reported, Trump also equated Confederate statues with ones of slaveholding Founding Fathers and former presidents.

"Are we going to take down statues of George Washington? How 'bout Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him? OK, good," Trump argued. "Are we going to take down the statue because he was a major slave-owner? Now we're going to take down his statue. So you know what, it's fine. You're changing history; you're changing culture."

Cities and towns across the country have been grappling with what to do with their Confederate statues.

Shortly after the violence in Charlottesville, the Daughters of the Confederacy in Gainesville, Fla., removed a statue of a Confederate soldier known as "Ole Joe."

And as Colin Dwyer wrote for The Two-Way:

"Politicians in a number of cities, far from protecting their own Confederate monuments, had instead moved to hasten their removal. In Baltimore and Jacksonville, Fla., in Memphis and Lexington, Ky., local leaders acted to begin getting rid of these long-standing landmarks."

In North Carolina, a state law prevents cities from removing Confederate monuments. But as Jeff Tiberii of member station WUNC reported for Morning Edition, that didn't seem to faze a group of activists in Durham Monday night. They brought down the statue of a Confederate soldier.

No arrests were made at the time but on Tuesday, Sheriff Mike Andrews said protesters who toppled the statue in front of a North Carolina government building would face felony charges.

Deputies later arrested Takiyah Thompson, who had identified herself as the woman who tied the rope that was used to tear the statue down, according to the Durham Herald Sun.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, wrote in a blog post that he would ask the Legislature to reverse a 2015 law signed by his Republican predecessor, Pat McCrory, that prevents the removal or relocation of monuments.

Cooper also wrote:

"Our Civil War history is important, but it belongs in textbooks and museums – not a place of allegiance on our Capitol grounds. And our history must tell the full story, including the subjugation of humans created in God's image to provide the back-breaking labor that drove the South's agrarian economy."

The rally in Charlottesville, Va., was called by white nationalists to protest plans to remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a city park.

Robert E. Lee IV, 92, a descendant of the Confederate general who lives in a retirement community in Bethesda, Md., told WRC-TV that he didn't have a problem with the statue being removed. It's up to the people, he said.

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