Tensions Arise During ‘Pilgrimage’

Kathryn Orth, Richmond Times-Dispatch, May 1, 2006

FARMVILLE—A small band of demonstrators waving Confederate flags gathered on the last day of the Faith and Politics Institute’s pilgrimage to Prince Edward County.

The three men stood yesterday on Main Street in front of the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts, where conference participants were scheduled to have lunch.

Sen. George Allen, R-Va., and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., were hosts for the three-day “Reconciliation Pilgrimage” to the county that closed its public schools for five years rather than comply with court-ordered desegregation.

Farmville police and U.S. Capitol Police officers broke up a brief altercation when some college students grabbed a sign from demonstrator Tim Hatley of Mecklenburg County and threw it in a trash can. No charges were filed.

Hatley said the group wanted to “show the public that not everyone mourned the loss of segregated schools. We don’t apologize for the Confederate flag, and Senator George Allen shouldn’t either.”

The demonstrators called Allen “a turncoat” for attending the pilgrimage.

Asked about the remark during a news conference yesterday, Allen said, “I was never on their side, ever. You’d hope that if they were here listening to these stories, it would somehow touch their hearts. . . They ought to read the Declaration of Independence.”

{snip}

The demonstrators, who called themselves “independent pro-white activists,” carried signs that read, “Segregation is better than integration” and “Just say no to white guilt.”

“Farmville has become a symbol of resistance. It is definitely a spirited debate,” said Ron Doggett of Henrico County, one of the demonstrators.

Between trading jibes with passing motorists, demonstrator Walter Ring of Henrico said, “The vast majority of Americans don’t want integration.”

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