Environmental Group Protests Systemic Racism
Leesburg, VA (Aug. 12, 2018) – Loudoun residents and members of 350 Loudoun covered the Confederate statue on the courthouse lawn in Leesburg with a tarp this morning. The peaceful action was meant to protest the monument and call for its removal. It comes on the one year anniversary of white supremacist violence in Charlottesville that centered around a statue honoring Confederate general Robert E Lee.
“The statue must be removed because it represents a shameful era in our history. Failing to remove it perpetuates the past,” said Natalie Pien, one of the protesters and a member of 350 Loudoun.
The Leesburg statue depicts a Confederate soldier and has stood on the courthouse lawn in Leesburg since 1908, decades after the Civil War, and a year when more than 60 African Americans were lynched in the United States. Sculpted by F.W. Sievers and commissioned by the Loudoun Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy, an inscription on the statue reads “In Memory of the Confederate Soldiers of Loudoun County, VA”.
“It is well past time we acknowledge the hate that stands memorialized in metal and stone on our courthouse lawn,” said Courtney Soria, another protester. ““From poll-taxes, to the lynching of Charles Craven, to KKK recruitment flyers, to the n-word being yelled from a car during a news interview, to flag burnings, to the environmental abuses of historically non-white and sacred lands, to neo-Nazi hate on full public display–a history of hate stands memorialized–and it is for these reasons we demand the immediate removal and/or relocation of this antiquated Jim Crow relic.”
The protest was planned by 350 Loudoun, a local climate action group that has focused mostly on climate change, renewable energy, and fracked gas infrastructure such as the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines proposed for the state.
“350 Loudoun recognizes that white supremacy is one of the root causes of the climate crisis. There’s a reason climate change disproportionately hurts people of color around the world, and that dirty fossil fuel projects are routinely placed in communities that are majority people of color communities. These things are a result of a system that privileges white people at the expense of everyone else. The Confederate statue is a symbol of such a system. As a Leesburg-based organization concerned with justice, we feel responsible to call for the statue’s removal” said Lee Stewart, another 350 Loudoun member who participated in the protest.
The Confederate monument in Leesburg has long been controversial, with local elected officials and community members taking different positions. 350 Loudoun hopes their action will hasten the statue’s removal, expose white supremacy’s continued existence in Loudoun, and spark further actions in the county and state to resist and counter systemic racism.