Robert E. Lee statue vandalized in Charlottesville ahead of KKK rally

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — The statue at the center of much controversy in Charlottesville in recent months was vandalized Friday night prior to a Ku Klux Klan rally scheduled to be held at a nearby park.

The Daily Progress reported Saturday (http://bit.ly/2sBr0Jc) that red paint was splashed on the base of the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park, which had been known as Lee Park until the city council changed the name last month.

Black graffiti was sprayed on the statue overnight Friday as well.

A worker was making repairs Saturday morning.

The vandalism occurred ahead of a planned Ku Klux Klan rally to protest city council’s decision to remove the statue.

Klan members told reporters in the days leading up to the rally that they plan to carry guns during the protest and defend themselves if attacked.

Nearly a dozen counter protests are planned to happen simultaneously.

“We are here to show that they are unwelcome, but also that their policies are unwelcome. their presence symbolizes the way that Charlottesville needs to continue to improve in terms of racial justice,” Laura Goldblatt, an organizer of an opposing rally said.

Two weeks ago, the mayor of Charlottesville cautioned that people should stay away from the protest.

The statue became an issue in this year’s gubernatorial election after Republican Corey Stewart used it as a rallying point. He decried calls for the removal of the statue as misguided political correctness.

Democratic Party of Virginia Chairwoman Susan Swecker made a statement about the rally.

“The KKK rally planned for Saturday in Charlottesville represents a direct attack on our commonwealth’s bedrock values of justice, equality and fairness,” Swecker said. “This is not a political or partisan issue — it is a moral question that cuts to the heart of who we are as Virginians. Leaders in every party must denounce this racist protest and come together to build a more just and inclusive future for our Commonwealth.

Republican Party of Virginia Chairman John Whitbeck agreed.

“The Republican Party was created in the mid-1800’s to end the barbaric practice of slavery; our Party today continues to stand for the freedom and dignity of every person, no matter their race, background, or creed. I welcome all Virginians to join us in condemning the racism and hate on display in Charlottesville today. The KKK has no place in our society and we reject their message of hate.”

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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