Here at Small Stones, we define education, and educators, broadly. So often, classrooms appear in the most unexpected places.
As we continue our own work of interviewing some of these educators, we wanted to share with you work from a friend of the blog. Photographer and photojournalist Eze Amos, a Charlottesville, Virginia local, has found himself in the middle of some of the larger protests and counter protests that have taken place since the 2016 election. We are featuring some of his images in this post; there are far more on his Instagram feed.
The issue at hand? A statue of Robert E. Lee, erected in 1924, that the city voted to remove earlier this year. The removal, however, is being held up by legal challenges. In May, white supremacist groups marched on the city carrying torches. This past Saturday, July 8, the KKK arrived.
We were fortunate to be able to talk with Eze about his experience at the counter-demonstration, and here’s what he had to say:
What I saw, after the KKK guys had left the city, is they drove off with police escort right in front of them, and there was a [police] car behind the convoy of KKK guys. I’ve been telling friends about this actually, they were definitely given—the only thing short of red carpet treatment was actual red carpets. What they give them that day, it was amazing. Anyhow, the police escorted the KKK out of the city. And of course, people were still agitated—KKK came to town—so there were still people out in the streets. Nobody was being violent.
The police, the state police that were all in riot gear, turned around as though they were leaving. [Then] they went back up to the park and then suddenly they turned around, and then some of them took a knee and got out their gas masks. And at this point I was telling some of the policemen, “This is not necessary! What are you doing?” But they just kept doing what they were doing, putting on their masks, so I immediately stepped a little bit away from them.
Moments later, I heard the first gas canister go off, which was without warning. They didn’t warn anybody. So of course some of the people saw that this was happening, that the police put on gas masks, so they wrapped cloaks around their faces, to prevent whatever gas they were going to deploy. Now they’re charging those people for covering their faces in a public place, which I think is ridiculous. So that was what I saw. The police deployed the gas after KKK had left. KKK had left, and twenty minutes after they had left, this whole gas thing happened, and they deployed three gas canisters.
And the craziest part of it was after they did this, the crowd, you know, people were still on the streets, and the police just turned around, got in their vans, and drove off. The state police. So they weren’t really deploying the gas to displace the people or get the people out of the street, they were just doing it for exercise, I think, because it doesn’t make sense that you’d deploy gas and then you’d turn around and just leave the people on the street and just drive off.
So basically, that is what happened. That’s what I saw. I got some photos to back that up. You can see [from] most of the photos, I didn’t get right to where the gas was deployed initially, because of course I was running away from getting the gas in my system, and I got some, I got pepper in my face and stuff, but, yeah. That is what I saw. That’s what happened.
Police ultimately used tear gas, and 23 counter-protestors were arrested. Local activists are currently preparing to oppose a planned Alt-Right March on Charlottesville. If you’re interested in helping out, you can contribute to Solidarity Cville Anti-Racist Legal Fund here. You can also use an ACLU-spearheaded form to register your thoughts with the Charlottesville City Council.
Unless the city revokes the permit for the August 12th march, we may, unfortunately, be featuring more images from the ensuing pushback.