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‘We refuse to be dragged backwards;’ Va. leaders rebuke white nationalists

Posted at 6:05 PM, Oct 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-08 22:13:48-04

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Several city and state leaders responded to Saturday's torchlit rally with strong words against the message and the group, led by white nationalist Richard Spencer who called the event “Charlottesville 3.0.”

On Saturday around 7:40 p.m., a group of about 40 to 50 people, including Spencer, gathered at Emancipation Park, where the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee stands, Charlottesville police said.

The group held a brief rally that police estimated took about five to 10 minutes. They dressed similarly in white shirts and some wore sunglasses in the dark while chanting, "You will not replace us. You will not erase us."

"Hello, Charlottesville. We have a message. We're back and we're going to keep coming back," one speaker said.

Spencer and his supporters alleged that Charlottesville was suppressing their speech and said that its residents should "get used to the alt-right. You're going to have to get used to white identity."

Charlottesville leadership made it clear that the city did not want to accommodate more actions from white supremacists, and Democratic leadership was quick to rebuke the event.

"Another despicable visit by neo-Nazi cowards," Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer said in a tweet. "You're not welcome here.

Signer also hinted at seeking legal action against the group by saying the city is examining the legality of the rally.

"It's clear that these white supremacists are using torches, fire, and hate speech to intimidate our citizens," Charlottesville Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy said in a tweet. "That's a crime."

Bellamy also called on Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman to take legal action against the group of white supremacists, Newsplex reported.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe tweeted: "We are monitoring this situation as we continue to oppose these racists and their message of hate."

Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) said “Don’t come back. Virginia is for lovers, not haters. We refuse to be dragged backwards.”

Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia) had not issued a statement or tweeted at the time of publication.

Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, also the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, spoke out against the rally in Charlottesville.

“There is no home, no place, and no safe harbor in the country I pledged to defend for the ugly hatred we saw in Charlottesville tonight," said Northam.

His opponent, Ed Gillespie (R-Virginia), was initially silent about Saturday’s event, but released a statement Sunday night.

"Last night’s torch rally was a disgusting, craven play for publicity by white supremacists whose twisted mindset represents the presence of evil in our world, hoping to generate media attention they believe furthers their reprehensible organizational goals," Gillespie said.

Charlottesville was rocked by violence nearly two months ago during clashes between white supremacists and counterprotesters. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed in the event August 12 when a car plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters.

In August, there was a strong bi-partisan message condemning the violence, from leadership and candidates.

After the Saturday rally, the group left the park, boarded a tour bus and departed from the city, Charlottesville police said. Police cars followed the tour bus to make sure the group was leaving the city.

"Our department is conferring with city leadership and the Commonwealth Attorney's office to determine what legal action may be taken in response to this event," police said in a statement.

Spencer has now held three torch rallies in his former college town. The first event occurred in May, also at Emancipation Park where they protested the city's plans to remove the Lee statue. The second event was in August at the University of Virginia.

**CNN Wire contributed to this report***