(JTA) – The mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, was hit with anti-Semitic tweets following protests by white nationalists over the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a local park.
White supremacist leader Richard Spencer, who attended the nearby University of Virginia, led the protests on Saturday – one during the day and another at night with demonstrators holding tiki torches. The Charlottesville City Council had voted to remove the statues of Lee and another Confederate general, Stonewall Jackson, located in a different park.
A court injunction will halt the action for six months.
“What brings us together is that we are white, we are a people, we will not be replaced!” Spencer said during the daytime protest.
Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer, who is Jewish, issued a statement published Saturday on Facebook criticizing the protesters, calling them “profoundly ignorant.”
“This event involving torches at night in Lee Park was either profoundly ignorant or was designed to instill fear in our minority populations in a way that hearkens back to the days of the KKK,” Signer wrote on his Facebook page. “Either way, as mayor of this City, I want everyone to know this: we reject this intimidation. We are a welcoming City, but such intolerance is not welcome here.”
The statement sparked anti-Semitic and racist comments on Twitter. One tweet, from the account of someone calling themselves Great Patriot Trump, read “I smell Jew. If so, you are going back to Israel. But you will not stay in power here. Not for long.”
Signer responded: “Here is what this great country faces in this age of @realDonaldTrump – a sitting mayor subjected to anti-Semitism. I will not be intimidated.”
Signer told Reuters that the protests came on the day the city marked its annual Festival of Cultures celebrating diversity.
“You’re seeing anti-Semitism in these crazy tweets I’m getting and you’re seeing a display of torches at night, which is reminiscent of the KKK,” Signer told Reuters. “They’re sort of a last gasp of the bigotry that this country has systematically overcome.”