A statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee has once again led to a confrontation between protesters and counter-protesters on Saturday, this time in the streets of a Virginia town. Roughly a dozen people gathered along Richmond's iconic Monument Avenue to show their support for the statue of Lee, a high-ranking military commander of the Confederate States of America. Put together by an out-of-town group known as CSA II: The New Confederate States of America, the demonstration was small and brief as more than 100 peaceful counter-protesters in Richmond overshadowed pro-Confederate demonstrators.
The "Protect The General Robert E. Lee Monument Rally" lasted roughly an hour before police escorted the protesters away from the area. A Facebook event page for rally had noted the protest was initially scheduled to last eight hours. In a tweet posted Saturday, Richmond police said the move to end the rally early was "a mutually agreed-upon decision" made by both police and rally organizers.
However, according to local ABC News affiliate WSET, another reportedly separate group of pro-Confederate protesters converged on the area around the Gen. Robert E. Lee statue shortly after CSA II (which is from Tennessee) had been escorted from the area. "About 20 minutes after [CSA II] was led away from the monument, a separate group of pro-Confederates took their place and the arguing back and forth continued between the pro-Confederates and counter-protesters," WSET's Elizabeth Tyree reported.
It was unclear exactly who the second group of pro-Confederate protesters were or if they were affiliated with CSA II. According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, the second set of pro-Confederate protesters numbered just two people and left after roughly 30 minutes.
But pro-Confederate protesters weren't the only group of demonstrators to take to the street in Richmond on Saturday. Richmond police reported a group of "peaceful" counter-protesters had gathered at the Maggie Walker monument in Jackson Ward Saturday morning before marching along Monument Avenue to the monument honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. "Peaceful group engaging in free speech at the Maggie Walker monument," Richmond police said in a tweet. The Richmond Times Dispatch reported counter-protesters at the Maggie Walker monument numbered more than 100 with even more waiting at the Robert E. Lee statue.
Counter-protestors seem to have formed strategy of overshadowing right-wing rallies in recent months. In August for example, conservative far-right "free speech" rallies held in Boston and San Francisco were both overshadowed and, ultimately disbanded after massive crowds of counter-protesters took over their spaces.
While Saturday's protests in Richmond remained peaceful, organizers behind the pro-Confederate rally reportedly did not receive a warm welcome to Richmond. According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, organizers of the "Protect The General Robert E. Lee Monument Rally" had two of their truck tires slashed. "They wanted us out of the state but then they slash our tires so we can't leave the state," The Richmond Times Dispatch reported Tara Brandau, one of the rally's organizers, told police as she waited with other pro-Confederate protesters for a tow. "That makes no sense."
While pro-Confederate rally organizers wouldn't provide a full comment after they disbanded their rally ahead of schedule, they told Richmond Times Dispatch reporter Ned Oliver, "we were peaceful" when asked if they felt like they'd accomplished what they'd been hoping to with their event.
Police reported detaining a woman just before noon near the Stuart monument. Although they have not yet revealed why the woman was detained, local reporters said witnesses claimed the detention followed a heated exchange of words between counter-protesters and pro-Confederate protesters. According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, counter-protesters reportedly shouted "shame" and "who do you protect, who do you serve?" at police as they removed the woman from the area. Aside from the one woman detained, Richmond police reported no arrests and no injuries at any of Saturday's demonstrations.