US UVA president criticizes Jefferson statue shrouding

02:02  14 september  2017
02:02  14 september  2017 Source:   Associated Press

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(AP) — The president of the University of Virginia says protesters who shrouded a statue of Thomas Jefferson in black were "desecrating" ground many people consider "sacred." They covered the statue of Jefferson , UVA 's founder, and put up signs that called him a "rapist" and "racist."

(AP) — The president of the University of Virginia says protesters who shrouded a statue of Thomas Jefferson in black were "desecrating" ground many people consider "sacred." They covered the statue of Jefferson , UVA 's founder, and put up signs that called him a "rapist" and "racist."

A group of protesters stand in front of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia for the one month anniversary of the © The Associated Press A group of protesters stand in front of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia for the one month anniversary of the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Va., Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. The group circled around the statue of Thomas Jefferson before covering it with black tarp and listing demands for the university. (Zack Wajsgras/The Daily Progress via AP)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Protesters who draped a black shroud over a statue of Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virginia were "desecrating" ground many people consider "sacred," the president of the Charlottesville college said Wednesday.

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UVA President Teresa Sullivan sent separate statements to the university community and to alumni after dozens of protesters gathered on campus Tuesday night to protest the university's response to white nationalist rallies this summer.

The demonstrators covered the statue of Jefferson, the third president of the United States and UVA's founder, and put up signs that called him a "rapist" and "racist," The Daily Progress reported .

The statue stands in front of the Rotunda, which Jefferson designed and where white nationalists carrying tiki torches clashed with counter-demonstrators just over a month ago. That march on campus was followed the next day by a larger rally in downtown Charlottesville that descended into violence.

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UVA president criticizes Jefferson statue shrouding .

Sullivan said she strongly disagreed with the demonstrators' decision to shroud the statue, writing in the statement sent to alumni that they were "desecrating" ground that "many of us consider sacred." One person was arrested for public intoxication and the shroud has since been removed, she said.

She wrote that Jefferson was a slave owner and that the university was dependent on slavery in its early years. Many historians also say Jefferson likely fathered six children with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings.

But Sullivan said Jefferson also "made many contributions to the progress of the early American Republic: he served as the third President of the United States, championed religious freedom, and authored the Declaration of Independence."

The demonstrators called Tuesday night for the university to meet demands issued by the Black Student Alliance after the white nationalist rallies. They include the removal of Confederate plaques on the Rotunda and adding context to the Jefferson statue.

Sullivan said in her statement to students, faculty and staff that the university has "acknowledged its controversial history," though there is "more work to be done."

A group of university leaders is reviewing UVA's response to the August rallies, and the college has also hired an outside firm to conduct a separate review.

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This item has been updated to correct that the university did not remove the shroud. The university says it dispatched workers to remove the covering, but it was already gone when they arrived.

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Information from: The Daily Progress, http://www.dailyprogress.com

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