The court debate and street demonstrations over the massive statue of Robert E. Lee in downtown Charlottesville, Va., have erupted into a major social media war with white supremacist and anti-Semitic overtones.
Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer denounced the torchlit demonstration led by white nationalist Richard Spencer in Charlottesville’s Lee Park Saturday night, saying, “This event involving torches at night in Lee Park was either profoundly ignorant or was designed to instill fear in our minority populations in a way that hearkens back to the days of the KKK.”
Evidently the KKK (or its close friends) was listening. The Washington Post reported that racist and anti-Semitic posts condemning Signer began popping up on Twitter.
“I smell Jew,” one message said, according to the Post. “If so, you are going back to Israel. But you will not stay in power here. Not for long.”
The controversy centers on the equestrian statue of the Confederate general, which the City Council has decided to sell and remove. The plans for the Lee statue prompted the white-nationalist march on Saturday night, which in turn provoked a candlelight march by supporters of the move on Sunday night.
Signer has been game about going up against the Twitter haters.
“Whew! Lot of trolls out tonight. Must be doing something right," Signer tweeted on Sunday.
In an interview with the New York Times, Signer reiterated his remark about the torchlit march being reminiscent of a Klan rally.
“When I first saw the photos, which is what I think struck so many people, it immediately hearkened back to images of visual intimidation, visual terror,” he said. “And I thought: We have to speak out against this immediately. We have to repudiate it.
On Twitter, instead of ignoring the trolls, Signer has been striking back with humor.
That was Signer’s response to the tweet below from Richard Spencer.
When David Duke-David Duke!-takes time out of his busy schedule to compose a thoughtful message like this, I KNOW I'm doing something right. https://t.co/xkVGnyznFS— Mike Signer (@MikeSigner) May 16, 2017
Stop playing the Victim Mayor Signer! You are the intolerant hater seeking to destroy the heroic heritage of the South & the American People https://t.co/pRZwjk7gK8— David Duke (@DrDavidDuke) May 16, 2017
The argument over the statue of Lee, and another of Stonewall Jackson in Jackson Park, is Charlottesville’s version of the same debate elsewhere. Last week New Orleans removed a statue of Jefferson Davis in the dark of night, but pro-Confederate forces still turned up to protest.
In Charlottesville, the council had already approved the move, but a court has enjoined the city from moving the Lee statue.