By Javaria Abbasi, AIA Program Analyst
ADAMS and AIA 2020 were very pleased to join in support of the Virginia NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) in a counter-protest in response to a demonstration planned and announced by the Loyal White Knights Chapter of the Ku Klux Klan on Saturday July 8, 2017 in Charlottesville VA.
The Albemarle-Charlottesville branch of the NAACP decided not to oppose the KKK on-site but instead to hold its counter-rally at Jack Jouett Middle School. Among the attendees of this event were Rizwan Jaka and Mohib Ullah, two prominent leaders of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society’s (ADAMS) Islamic Center in Sterling, Virginia.
Rizwan Jaka, Chairman and member of the Board of Trustees (and past President) of ADAMS, and a Director of the Alliance for an Indivisible America 2020 (AIA 2020), commented that “for the cause of justice” he felt that it was imperative that ADAMS and AIA 2020 be present at the counter-rally. “ADAMS has for many years worked closely with the NAACP in both Loudoun and Fairfax Counties,’ Rizwan explained, “and it is important that we show our full support for their efforts to oppose the kind of hate speech and actions that affect not only African-Americans but every member of the Muslim community in Virginia as well.”
The KKK members had come to Justice Park to protest the proposed removal of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a public park. The park, formerly known as Lee Park, was renamed Emancipation Park after a unanimous vote by the Charlottesville City Council in June. Daily Beast journalist Gideon Resnick had noted that KKK members had indicated they would come to the rally armed and prepared to defend themselves against aggression from counter-protestors. But only 30 members of the Loyal White Knights showed up to attend the event, shouting “white power” and waving Confederate Flags.
By contrast, these 30 KKK protestors were far outnumbered by 1000 to 2000 counter-protestors who had come to support the NAACP, and to affirm the rights of all minorities in the Commonwealth of Virginia. No violence broke out at the demonstrations, because, as Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer stated, “our approach, from our police chief on down, has been to urge people not to take this totally discredited fringe organization’s putrid bait at all. They want division and confrontation and a twisted kind of celebrity, (but we) will refuse to take their bait and (just) continue to tell our story.”
The local division of the NAACP and the many attendees from ADAMS and other minority Organizations and supporters responded enthusiastically to the Mayor’s call to coordinate peaceful resistance to the KKK’s message of hate and fear. Although the KKK event attracted significant media coverage, that was focused primarily on the vast disparity in the size of the KKK group versus the thousands of counter-demonstrators who wanted to show solidarity with the NAACP, and to protest any form of hate speech and divisive rhetoric.
AIA 2020 is proud of the ADAMS reps at the event, and to have been in solidarity with our NAACP colleagues in this effort to maintain peace and harmony across the Commonwealth.