A man who led attempts to save the Robert E Lee statue in Charlottesville has told talkRADIO that there could potentially be 1,000 similar flashpoints if people on both sides of the statue debate don't take action.
B. Frank Earnest, a spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group representing the families of Southern civil war soldiers, also said Lee was his people's answer to Winston Churchill and the South is facing "our own Kristallnacht" if tensions aren't doused.
Earnest was in Charlottesville last Thursday (August 10), the day before the violence which killed protester Heather Heyer. His group has filed a lawsuit to keep the statue intact, but he said the SCV abhors violence and had nothing to do with the 'Unite the Right' protest which was at the centre of Friday's fcarnage.
He told us: "Charlottesville is a self-inflicted wound. I was insulted [in meetings] by the city council and the mayor. I’ve never heard such awful things about the south.
"We reject both sides of the violence. It wasn’t like a terrorist attack like you had in the UK, in Manchester. It’s kind of like you knew the terrorists were going to be there and you went to confront them."
Lee, he said, had "nothing to do with white supremacy, but the opposing side would like to make you think he was. The opposing side wants to equate Robert E lee with Adolf Hitler. They’re throwing gasoline onto the fire.
"What happened in Charlottesville had nothing to do with Robert E Lee. General Lee would have been appalled by what happened in Charlottesville. He wouldn’t even have wanted a statue."
Discussing the impact of the statue's removal, Earnest said "it’s like Lord Nelson being torn down, Churchill being torn down." Then, turning to the wider impact of the Charlottesville violence, particularly the equation of the pro-Confederate groups with the KKK, he said "a man called Goebbels told the German people a lot of lies about the Jews and it led to Kristallnacht.
"This is our Kristallnacht. It won’t be anything like the Holocaust, but it could be nasty."
After the Charlottesville violence, attempts to remove Confederate monuments from other cities have begun apace, with four separate commemorative pieces being taken down in Baltimore.
When we asked how many statues remain intact, Earnest said "almost every city in the south has a monument of a Confederate soldier. These monuments never offended anybody until a radical movement started running around. And they won’t stop when all the monuments are removed. They want all the roads changed, the schools changed."
"Could we see another Charlottesville? Could any of those 1,000 monuments become its own Charlottesville? If you create that atmosphere, yes.
"But the moderates on both sides, the ones who want to take the monument and those who want to keep it, need to sit down at a table. Act like civilised people and don’t stir things up to fever pitch."