1,000 signatures reached
To: U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones and Dominion Resources Chairman, CEO and President Thomas F. Farrell II:
Don't showcase Confederate "heroes" during International Bicycle Race.
We the undersigned call on you to change the route of the UCI Road World Championships bicycle race, scheduled for Sept. 19-27 in Richmond, Va.
As chairmen of Richmond 2015, the organizing committee for this prestigious world-class event, you have designed the race route, in the former capital of the Confederacy, to highlight the statues of Confederate military and political leaders on Richmond's Monument Avenue. In light of the recent racist massacre of nine African-Americans in Charleston, S.C., and the resulting movement to remove Confederate symbols from public view, it is outrageously offensive to chose this route, precisely because it celebrates Richmond's role as the Confederate capital, and the effort of post-Civil War Richmond to restore respect for that role through the use of public art.
At the same time, you and the other corporate leaders of Richmond 2015 are doing nothing to support the ongoing local community efforts to reclaim and properly memorialize Richmond's Shockoe Bottom and that district's central role in the U.S. domestic slave trade.
We therefore call on you to change the race route to exclude Monument Avenue and its Confederate statues and to support the community effort to memorialize Shockoe Bottom.
We also endorse the call of the Richmond community organization Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality for a National Presence in Richmond at noon on Saturday, Sept. 19, the opening day of the UCI race, at the site you have chosen for the race's critical half-way point: the monument to Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
[This petition was initiated by The Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, a member group of the United National Antiwar Coalition. Founded in 2010, UNAC is the largest antiwar coalition in the United States.]
Why is this important?
In the aftermath of the horrific white-supremacist massacre of nine African-Americans in Charleston, S.C., calls are being raised across the country for the removal of Confederate symbols from public places. But in Richmond, Va., the former capital of the slavery-defending Confederacy, during the 150th anniversary year of Emancipation and the end of the Civil War, prominent elected officials are defending their decision to spotlight racist symbols in an international sports event.
The UCI Road Word Championships bicycle race, scheduled to take place in Richmond Sept. 19-27, is one of the cycling world's most prestigious competitions. It also likely will be the largest sports event held in the United States in 2015. Some 450,000 people are expected to attend, along with representatives of 500 U.S. news outlets, reporters from 100 countries and a worldwide TV viewing audience of 300 million. Truly, this event will showcase not only Richmond and the state of Virginia, but the entire country.
And yet, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones – all Northern-born Democrats and chairmen of Richmond 2015, the official race organizing committee – have chosen to highlight Richmond's Monument Avenue, a virtual shrine to the Confederacy. (The fourth committee chairman is Thomas F. Farrell II, Chairman, CEO and President of Dominion Resources, Virginia's most politically influential corporation.)
Hundreds of millions of people will watch as riders pass statues of Generals Robert E. Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, J.E.B. Stuart and Naval Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury. Then, for the critical half-way point of the race, the riders will circle around the towering monument to Jefferson Davis, the slave-owning Confederate president. The route even manages to skip the avenue's one statue dedicated to an African-American, Richmond-born tennis champion and human rights activist Arthur Ashe, who was particularly known for his activism against the racist apartheid system of South Africa.
The route then continues over Shockoe Bottom, the former slave-trading area that once was the epicenter of the U.S. domestic slave trade and an area that Gov. McAuliffe and Mayor Jones had been promoting for a commercial baseball stadium, until that for-profit developer's scheme was blocked by a prolonged community struggle. Many of the corporate principals of Richmond 2015 are the same business leaders who heavily promoted the stadium proposal.
So, 150 years after Emancipation and the end of the Civil War, Sen. Warner, Gov. McAuliffe, Mayor Jones and CEO Farrell are saying that the finest this country has to present to the world are the monuments to the traitors who fought to preserve slavery – and that this outrageous statement is being made at the same time they are failing dismally to properly memorialize the site that once was the fountainhead of the domestic slave trade.
Simply put, the message is: Black Lives and History Really Do Not Matter.
In Richmond, the Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, a community organization and a founding member of UNAC that has been fighting since 2002 to reclaim Shockoe Bottom, is calling on the race organizers to move the route off Monument Avenue and for the city to finally commit to a proper memorialization of Shockoe Bottom.
The Defenders also are calling for progressives to join them in a National Presence in Richmond at noon on Saturday, Sept. 19, the opening day of the UCI race – at the Jefferson Davis monument.
UNAC endorses these demands and strongly encourages all our members and allies to be in Richmond on Sept. 19 to let the world know that we reject this honoring of the slavery-defending Confederacy and demand a proper memorialization of all slavery-related sites, including Richmond's Shockoe Bottom.