By Evan Benton, Staff Writer
A small group of protesters joined together Monday at the North Plaza outside the Johnson Center to protest Governor Robert F. McDonnell’s controversial decision to proclaim April “Confederate History Month.”
The protesters, organized by the George Mason University College Democrats, were made up of students, concerned citizens and local politicians eager to speak and listen. Led by Frank Anderson, co-president of the student group, half a dozen people took turns stepping up to the podium and speaking into a loudspeaker.
“I thought I was in 1965 when I read the newspaper the other day and saw ‘Confederate History Month,’” said Herb Smith, one of the vice chairs on the Fairfax Democratic Committee. “How can that not be [seen] as offensive to African Americans? How can that not be offensive to all Americans?”
Curious bystanders were encouraged to pick up one of the many handmade signs, which featured sentiments such as “USA not CSA,” “McDonnell Doesn’t Speak For Me” and “Bob is Backwards,” with the starred red cross of the Confederate Flag filling in the “o” in Bob.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who recently gained attention on campus for his controversial letter regarding nondiscrimination policies at state universities, was also mentioned.
Six people spoke. The rest of the group — four people — held the signs. At the peak of the protest’s reception about 25 people were standing and watching.
“We should not be celebrating the division during the Civil War, but the unification at its ending,” said Joe Gallant, junior government major.
Gov. McDonnell had recently come under fire for leaving out “slavery” as a key component of the Civil War when announcing publicly his decision to make April Confederate History Month. He has since apologized, after his words were condemned by the NAACP, the ACLU and several other groups.
“In his defense he did think that it would bring more tourism because it’s the 150th anniversary of the War’s [beginning],” said Frank Anderson, junior and public administration major. “But why not just call [April] Civil War History Month then?”
“It’s the state’s hard-right presence. He feels that he owes them something because of his electoral success and this is that something.”
Before dispersing, interested students and bystanders were encouraged to attend the College Democrats daily gathering, every night at 8 p.m., in meeting room D at the JC.