7 detained as rival rallies face off over Confederate statue in Richmond (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
A few dozen activists turned up Saturday morning to an event organized by the ‘Heritage not Hate’ activist group. The protesters are demanding to keep General Lee’s statue at its current location, as the city’s authority contemplate the possible removal of the monument.
When they gathered around the statue of the Confederate hero, they were met by counter activists, which held their own ‘Richmond Stands United’ rally, calling for the removal of Lee’s statue.
Fearing potential violence between the two camps, police increased their numbers and closed off nearby streets. Local news outlets noted that some activists were carrying guns in the open.
Police have confirmed the arrest of 7 people from both groups.
"Total of seven individuals arrested during today's assemblies. No injuries, no accidents," police said in a tweet.
Heated arguments between counter protesters and rally organizers characterized the day's events.
Police said they will continue to monitor activity in Richmond, even after the demonstrations dispersed peacefully. Barriers along Monument Avenue were dismantled shortly after 5pm.
“As assemblies have dispersed into small groups throughout the city, Richmond Police and its regional law enforcement partners continue to monitor these activities and respond appropriately,” police said in a statement.
US society has been divided over the fate of Confederate-era monuments. The debate whether to keep historic statues in public places intensified after the August tragedy in Charlottesville, where a ‘Unite the Right’ white supremacist rally and counter-protests resulted in violent clashes.
One person was killed and nineteen injured in a car ramming attack, when James Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. The incident triggered nation-wide protests against right-wingers. Several cities and towns across the US have decided to take down Confederate monuments.