New trend? Local protesters denounce effigy burning
About a week after Guy Fawkes' Day, the British holiday celebrated with bonfires and effigy burning of the guy who tried to blow up Parliament, a Danville group announced its plans to burn Congressman Tom Perriello and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in effigy at a November 21 bonfire. Yet Charlottesville-area reaction indicates that some Virginians don't quite have the same stiff upper lip as their Brit cousins about torching likenesses–- especially of their elected leaders.
"This is not something we condone," says Bill Hay, head of the local group. "I had a conniption when I heard about it."
Hay says that the Jefferson Area Tea Party, as much as it dislikes the landmark Health Care Reform that Perriello helped pass, has no intention of emulating the fiery plans laid out by one of his Danville brethren in a November 13 press release.
"I feel bad," says Hay. "They're a nice group of people there who let their emotions get ahead of their thinking."
"That falls below the level of civil discourse," agrees Albemarle Republican activist Keith Drake. "When the message gets to burning elected officials, that doesn't move discourse forward."
According to Isaac Wood at UVA's Center for Politics, effigy burning was much more popular 225 years ago at the nation's founding.
"It's been a part of political speech for a long time, but it's gone out of vogue," says Wood, noting a few recent war-time exceptions: Nixon and LBJ during Vietnam, and George W. Bush, torched in Montreal and Iraq over the war in Iraq.
The announcement of the effigy burning created such a firestorm that the Danville tea party has canceled the burning, says Hay. And the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports online Monday afternoon that Danville Tea Party member Patricia Evans has emailed her group that "nothing will be burned at our upcoming bonfire except an occasional hot dog."
Meanwhile, six Republicans (including Albemarle Supervisor Ken Boyd) have announced they're challenging Perriello in 2010, and Ivy resident Laurence Verga is one of them. And Verga already knows where he stands on the kindling issue.
"Utilizing our rights to protest is great," Verga says, "but something like that puts it over the top."