Update 8:09 a.m.: Bragdon Bowling is withdrawing his request to the state to hold a Sept. 16 rally at the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue.
Bowling said by email Tuesday morning that "due to the potential for violence after Charlottesville, the rally on Sept 16 will not be held."
"I do not want to be part of an event where people are hurt or killed," Bowling said. "Our purpose is to save monuments, not be engaged in social and racial issues."
Earlier: A Confederate heritage advocate who wants to hold a rally on Sept. 16 at the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue in Richmond said Monday that he doesn’t want violent people or members of the KKK showing up — and if police can’t ensure that a monument-protection rally would be safe, he would consider withdrawing his request.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said he was aware of a pending application with the state for the rally.
The city will be prepared for whatever may happen, but the decision on whether a rally will take place lies with the Virginia Department of General Services, Stoney said.
“I would make the request that in light of the events that happened in Charlottesville that we take a deep look at whether or not this is something that should go forward on Sept. 16,” Stoney said.
Bragdon Bowling, who is asking the state for permission to hold the monument-heritage rally, said that “things have changed somewhat thanks to the Charlottesville problems, so we’re kind of reviewing.”
“I’m not saying we’ll call it off. I kind of have to watch and see what goes on,” he said. “I don’t want to see David Duke at this rally, I don’t want to see Antifa, I don’t want to see Black Lives Matter. I don’t want them there.”
If the rally does happen, Bowling said, “I’d want police to separate the crowd, which they didn’t do very well in Charlottesville.”
“The last thing we ever would want would be any of these nuts — right or left — coming to Richmond causing trouble,” he said.
According to Bowling’s application, he has invited Corey Stewart, the chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, who made protection of Confederate monuments and the Confederate flag a central issue in his campaign this year in the GOP primary for governor. Stewart narrowly lost the June primary to Ed Gillespie. He is now seeking the Republican nomination to run against U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., in 2018.
Stewart has ties to Jason Kessler, who coordinated the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville on Saturday; Stewart appeared at a news conference with Kessler in Charlottesville in February.
“Sadly, pundits and academics in media will use the events in Charlottesville as yet another excuse to silence and punish the speech of those with whom they disagree,” Stewart said in a statement Sunday.
“We can expect to see more bans of opposing thought, labeling of conservative ideas as bigoted, and limited government initiatives scapegoated as the cause of further destruction of U.S. history.”
Stewart said in an interview Monday that should the rally happen, he hasn’t decided if he’d attend.
“We don’t know yet. Frankly, I don’t trust (Gov. Terry) McAuliffe to order an adequate amount of protection. He never condemned the violence that was perpetrated by Antifa. ... His condemnation was one-sided,” Stewart said. “And to that extent I think he’s kind of emboldened these far-left-wing groups to continue to attack conservatives.”
When asked what he thought of neo-Nazis and members of the Klan who went to Charlottesville, Stewart replied, “I detest them.”
He added: “All violence should be condemned. All political violence should be condemned.”
Bowling said Stoney is being divisive.
If Richmond adds context to the monuments, “it’s like opening the door to removal of the statues,” he said. “Stoney’s viewpoint that these people were white supremacists or whatever, a few years later you’ll have the black people in the city saying, ‘Why do we have these monuments to these racists,’ and ... they’re going to want the whole thing down after looking at those tablets for a couple of years.”
Bowling clarified that he meant both black and white people who support relocation of Confederate monuments.
Bowling was among many who opposed the placement of a statue of Abraham Lincoln and his son Tad at Tredegar Iron Works in 2003. The statue was controversial for many in the former Confederate capital.
“They have no concept of history and how it might be the wrong place to put the statue,” Bowling, then the Virginia division commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, told The New York Times. “As a Southerner, I’m offended. You wouldn’t put a statue of Winston Churchill in downtown Berlin, would you? What’s next, a statue of Sherman in Atlanta?”
U.S. Rep. A. Donald McEachin, D-4th, said he doesn’t want “violence and hate” in Richmond.
“We are a society governed by the First Amendment. They have a right to march but what they don’t have a right to do is to incite violence, so we’ll be prayerful that won’t happen in Richmond,” he said.
Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham said in a statement Monday that his department has already begun planning for the potential rally at the Lee monument, and for counterprotests.
“We will be prepared,” he said.