The president of the University of Virginia is rebuking a group of Black Lives Matters protesters hours after group members shrouded a statue of the college’s founder, former President Thomas Jefferson, in a black tarp.
UVA leader Teresa Sullivan accused the small group of faculty, students and community members of “desecrating ground that many of us consider sacred,” according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“I strongly disagree with the protesters’ decision to cover the Jefferson statue,” she wrote in an email to alumni, noting the university removed the tarp shortly after it was discovered.
Black Lives Matter activists gathered to protest Jefferson Tuesday night, on the one-month anniversary of the violent white nationalist rally on Aug. 12. The protesters gathered together to condemn UVA’s founder as “racist” and a “rapist.”
This is the second time the Jefferson statue has been disturbed. In late August, university police investigated after the memorial was splashed with red paint.
Sullivan addressed the mid-August rally, in which Ku Klux Klan sympathizers, white nationalists, and neo-Nazis rallied, in her note to graduates:
Coming just one month after the August 11 torchlight march by 300 racist and anti-Semetic protesters, a march that became violent, this event has reminded us that there are critical and sometimes divisive issues related to the exercise of free expression in an inclusive community.
The UVA president went on to say Jefferson “was an ardent believer in freedom of expression, and he experienced plenty of abusive treatment from the newspapers of his day,” though she prefers “the process of discussion and debate” over vandalism.
In a Facebook post, Republican Corey Stewart, a U.S. Senate candidate for Virginia, condemned the “historically illiterate [violent left]” for shrouding the Jefferson statue.
Similarly, the Virginia GOP described defacing Jefferson’s statue as “the next step in the extreme left's movement to erase our history,” calling it a “criminal offense, plain and simple.”
John Whitbeck, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, called on UVA’s police department and administration to “move swiftly to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
“We cannot tolerate lawlessness and extreme political correctness masking as free speech any longer,” he added.