Rally in ‘solidarity with Charlottesville’ to be held at Halifax’s Cornwallis statue

A group of Haligonians are organizing a rally in “solidarity with Charlottesville” following the events that took place in the Virginia community this weekend.

The rally will be held Tuesday at the Edward Cornwallis statue at 6:30 p.m.

“Let us come together,” the organizers, Autonomy East, write on the Facebook event page.

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Brad Vaughan, a member of the group, said the rally was prompted by calls for solidarity rallies from “folks who were involved in Charlottesville and friends and family of those who were injured.”

“I think Charlottesville really speaks to a moment in which it’s necessary for grassroots mobilization to confront and challenge white supremacy and the far right,” he said in a phone interview.

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Over the weekend, the college town saw violent clashes at a massive white supremacist rally that culminated in an act of suspected terrorism, when a man rammed his car into counter-protesters. A woman died as a result, and dozens of others were injured.

And the same day, a police helicopter that was monitoring the protests crashed in the woods outside Charlottesville, killing two state troopers.

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On the Facebook page for the event, the group writes the statue was chosen because it “has always been and continues to be a symbol of genocide and a rallying point for racism.”

“We think it’s important to really bring our local situation into the picture and demonstrate the way that these racist public symbols serve as tools for mobilization of white supremacists and the far right,” Vaughan said.

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The Cornwallis statue has stirred controversy for several years and was recently a focal point as protesters pledged to remove the statue of Halifax’s controversial founder.

Instead of the statue being removed, last month more than 100 people gathered at the statue and watched as a municipal worker covered it with a black tarp.

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Cornwallis founded Halifax in 1749 and shortly after issued a bounty on Mi’kmaq scalps in response to an attack on colonists. The Mi’kmaq have been calling for the removal of tributes to Cornwallis, some calling his actions a form of genocide.

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Following the protest, Halifax Mayor Mike Savage read a declaration and the demands put forward by protesters at Halifax Regional Council.

While the mayor’s office told Global News they are aware of the rally, there have not been any plans for Savage to attend as of Monday afternoon.

Asked about Charlottesville, Savage said the incident was “terrible” and said lessons can come out the events there

“You can’t let extremists force your position and I think your positions have to come from [as individual politicians] from inside your heart and your head,” Savage said. “To react to extremist viewpoints and actions would be wrong.”

The organizer of the rally in Halifax says they are asking people to come stand in solidarity with the U.S. community which saw clergy in robes, Black Lives Matter activists, armed militia members, students and anti-fascist protesters all in the same place to oppose a weekend gathering of white nationalists.

But in their post, the organizer says “the far-right does not only exist in the United States,” citing Nazi graffiti on election signs during the provincial election in May, “threats of violence against Indigenous women planning the removal of a symbol of genocide,” and the “Proud Boys” disrupting an Indigenous ceremony held on Canada Day at the Cornwallis Statue.

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“This is part of the intensification of an unbroken history of racist violence that must be resisted at home and abroad,” the group wrote.

Halifax police said in an email that they were aware of the planned protest. Const. Dianne Penfound said they had appropriate resources and plan to monitor the event and respond accordingly.

So far, as of 5 p.m., 133 people have said they will be attending the rally, with another 170 showing interest.

With files from The Canadian Press

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