White protestors have smeared a statue of Arthur Ashe, the African-American tennis star who faced systemic racism when he was growing up in Richmond.
True, the Ashe memorial had earlier been defaced by “Black Lives Matter” messages spray painted on its base. On Wednesday, a small band of protestors painted over the “BLM” statements with “White Lives Matter” pronouncements.
One of the protestors, a white man who called himself “Everybody,” claimed he had grown up in Richmond and drove off in a sedan with South Carolina plates, according to the Richmond-Times-Dispatch.
What is disturbing is the prospect of violent conflict, perhaps involving fast-firing, assault-style rifles, between opposing camps.
Much has been made of the so-called threat posed by ANTIFA, said to be a radical left group that is prepared to use violence at protests, which have been largely peaceful in Virginia and across the country.
Although conservatives have made a big deal about ANTIFA, there has been little evidence that they are masterminding the massive national protests that have occurred in the past few weeks after police in Minneapolis and Atlanta killed African-Americans.
The flip side is the so-called “Boogaloo” movement of hard-right, armed activists. According to this morning’s Washington Post, law enforcement is worried that the loosely organized, social media-based group may instigate violence at peaceful demonstrations.
Advocates of the movement are said to wear Hawaiian shirts and carry assault-style rifles. Some are reported to have military training in handling weapons and making bombs. Federal prosecutors in California, Texas, Nevada and Colorado have charged suspected Boogaloo advocates with weapons violations.
It isn’t known whether the people who spray-painted “White Lives Matter” on the Ashe memorial are members of Boogaloo but there has been push-back from what appeared to be white supremacists. Protestors at the Robert E. Lee statue on Richmond’s Monument Avenue recently found themselves surrounded by large pickup trucks driven by armed whites. They scattered as the trucks drove through the demonstration. Several people were later arrested by police.
In 2017, protests at a “Unite the Right” demonstration at Charlottesville, violent skirmishes between far right and leftist advocates left one women dead after a white supremacist drove his car at high speed into a group of people. Two Virginia State Policemen monitoring the demonstration died when their helicopter crashed.
At demonstrations in Virginia, men decked out in combat dress and holding guns often show up as a kind of “militia” but their real goal is intimidation. They are almost always young white males with beards and flak jackets.
Another example of how deadly such confrontations can get occurred in Greensboro, N.C., on Nov. 3, 1979. Members of the Communist Workers Party held a “Death to the Klan” march that drew KKK members and the American Nazi Party. In a shootout, five people were slain.
The possibility of armed conflict between opposing factions is perhaps the most frightening and dangerous thing about the current wave of protests. Once the guns go off or the pickups roar through crowds, many innocent people could get killed.