A peaceful protest in support of the black LGBTQ community took place in Lynchburg on Sunday.
“It’s also Pride month and so we were wanting to remember the queer black lives that also matter,” the event organizer, Stacey O’Hara, told WFXR, a local television station.
The protest started with a rally in Riverside Park with speakers presenting poems, songs and facts about contributions made by black LGBTQ community members, reported the News and Advance newspaper. The march went along Rivermont Avenue before returning to the park.
The event was one of several held in the area and across the country protesting police brutality and racial violence in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by then-Minneapolis police officers on May 25.
Charley Burton, a black transgender man who is a founding member of Black Trans Men Incorporated and the Virginia chapter leader, did not attend the Lynchburg or other protests. Burton, who lives in Charlottesville, told the Washington Blade the “main reason why I have not been to any protests is because of the fear of what happened in Charlottesville in 2017.”
“I fear something is going to go bad,” said Burton.
James Alex Fields, Jr., in August 2017 during a “Unite the Right” march organized by white nationalists who were protesting the city’s decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee drove his car into a group of protesters. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed and 19 others were injured.
Fields was convicted of first-degree murder in 2018.
Judge Bradley B. Cavedo of the Richmond Circuit Court on Monday blocked Gov. Ralph Northam’s order to remove a statue of Lee in Richmond.
“Today, Virginia is home to more Confederate commemorations than any other state,” Northam said in a June 4 statement announcing the statue’s planned removal. “That’s true because generations ago, Virginia made the decision not to celebrate unity, but to honor the cause of division. You’ll see this if you look around Virginia and our capital city. The statue of Robert E. Lee is the most prominent.”
NPR reports the judge’s 10-day injunction cites a lawsuit filed by William C. Gregory, a descendant of two signatories to the land deed which promises the state would care for and protect the massive monument. It’s base is currently covered in graffiti in the wake of ongoing protests.
“The uprisings for black lives across the country and in our home state have re-emphasized that racial justice must be integral to Pride and to the LGBTQ equality movement as a whole,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck in an email to the Blade. “We only have a Pride month because of black and Latinx trans and gender nonconforming people, including Marsha P. Johnson; Sylvia Rivera and Stormé DeLarverie, who led the Stonewall Uprising 51 years ago.”
“We hope all Virginians will join us in using this Pride month to celebrate transformation, mutual support, and a striving for full justice for black LGBTQ people,” added Lamneck.