UVa President Says Protesters Who Shrouded Jefferson Statue ‘Desecrated’ Campus

Students, faculty members, and others at the University of Virginia on Tuesday night shrouded the campus’s prominent statue of Thomas Jefferson with black fabric. The protest occurred on the one-month anniversary of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., and was intended to criticize the “perceived inaction” of the university’s president, Teresa A. Sullivan, on the night of August 11, when white supremacists surrounded students who had gathered to protest their presence on the campus.

The Cavalier Daily, the student newspaper, reported that protesters on Tuesday marched with signs saying “TJ is a racist,” “End Hate Now,” and “Black Lives Matter,” while chanting “No Trump, no KKK, no racist UVA.” Signs were placed on the Jefferson statue calling the third president and founder of UVa a “racist” and a “rapist.”

The protesters called attention to a list of demands formulated by the Black Student Alliance, titled “March to Reclaim Our Grounds.” One demand was that the university “remove the Confederate plaques on the Rotunda,” a high-profile campus building. In keeping with the demands, the protesters asked that UVa place a new plaque next to the statue, recontextualizing it as “an emblem of white supremacy,” reported The Daily Progress, a local newspaper.

Ms. Sullivan respond to the protest in a letter to alumni that said the protesters had “desecrated ground that many of us consider sacred.” She said she strongly disagreed with the protesters. While she said she preferred “discussion and debate” over activism, the presence of activism “should not be a surprise to any of us.”

In a separate letter to the campus, Ms. Sullivan repeated that she strongly disagreed with the decision to shroud the statue, but stopped short of saying the protesters had “desecrated” the campus. Read her message.

Update (9/13/2017, 5:11 p.m.): This post originally cited Ms. Sullivan’s letter to alumni in reporting that the university had removed the shroud. In a follow-up statement correcting the record, the university said it had sent workers to take down the shroud, but when they arrived at the statue, they found the shroud had already been removed. The post has been updated accordingly.

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