Free Speech Monument Unveiled

Charlottesville Free Speech Monument
John Grisham and George Garrett kick things off while the press looks on.

The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression unveiled their privately-funded, long-awaited free speech monument on the Downtown Mall this morning. The monument consists of a large Buckingham-minded slate chalkboard and a speaker’s podium, located in front of City Hall. Blog coverage is extensive, with The Hook, Outskirts, 2300 Days, Charlottesville Tomorrow, and Mayor David Brown all weighing in thus far. And Sean Tubbs has the audio at the Charlottesville Podcasting Network, natch. My mother’s got a Flickr set of the proceedings, as well as some of what was written.

From the photos, it looks like somewhere north of a hundred people attended, with John Grisham, David Brown, Boyd Tinsley, Dahlia Lithwick, and George Garrett speaking. At the beginning of the event, the chalkboard was blank; by the end, it was totally covered.

Disclaimer: I’m on the TJ Center Monument board, but it’s just a volunteer gig. But I missed the unveiling because I have the flu. Feh.

19 Responses to “Free Speech Monument Unveiled”


  • Now the waiting begins…

    …to see how long it takes for stories to appear in the local news about the monument and :

    1) Stolen chalk and erasers.
    2) Gang associated graffitti (hopefully only with chalk of course).
    3) The usual juvenile/bathroom profanity that people like to scrawl on walls.

    Anyone of those three ought to be good for a slow newsday a month or three down the road. :)

  • There are no erasers provided—anybody who wants to erase has to do so with their hands (or whatever else they have on their person). And it’s expected that chalk will disappear—a volunteer will restock it as often as is necessary.

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens in reaction to any expression that people tend not to like. Will it be tolerated? Or will it always be erased as soon as it goes up? There’s been lots of speculation up until now, though I’ve tried not to engage in too much of it. I’ve figured we could just wait and see what happens. Now we’ll find out.

  • i just can’t wait till the people censor it. I can see stuff like “Jesus loves you” magically disappear in the night. Wow the irony!

  • I really doubt that there will be much censoring at all. Some people will erase posts to create space for their own graffiti but most people are just not going to be interested enough to care and they aren’t going to want to get chalk all over their hands. Who knows, it may get covered up with graffiti so fast that the center will actually provide erasers to keep things flowing. I think the chalkboard is really pretty damn silly and not worthy of being designated as a monument to free speech. It probably won’t survive the test of time.

    It seems kind of strange though, that the TJ Center put so much time and money into it. It’s their money so they can do what they want to with it but aren’t there any worthwhile cases that need legal fees paid?

  • It seems kind of strange though, that the TJ Center put so much time and money into it. It’s their money so they can do what they want to with it but aren’t there any worthwhile cases that need legal fees paid?

    The money was all donated by people specifically for the chalkboard, and not from their general funds.

  • “1) Stolen chalk and erasers.”

    only the yellow chalk will get stolen.

  • Jesus Loves You!

  • hey, what happened to my span tag with a line-through style? now my above comment makes no sense.

    (nor does I guess this one). apologies.

  • Once long ago I put an obnoxious, sacrilegious phrase on the rail of Beta Bridge. A bunch of us were painting it. Well, the next morning I drove by and only my part was blacked out. I’ve often wondered if it was one of my co-painters, or some Christian censors for public decency. It said “God is a dog and people are the leash.” Kids!

    I hate the design of the Free Speech Chalkboard. It splits that plaza into two windswept alleys, one of which is populated by men screaming at me for money. Turning they corner, it’s kind of a surprise. Maybe they will become more civil as they get used to the hulking monolith, 2001 A Space Odyssey come to CVille… though in proportions more like Spinal Tap’s Stonehenge model.

    Oh it is a wonderful idea. Half the year the Mall tends to the windy and cold anyway, though.

  • I gotcha covered.

    Thanks, man!

    I will try not to abuse the privilege.

  • IMO the Monument is in and of itself symbolically nice but functionally fairly useless.

    But… if it became the locus of a Speaker’s Corner a la Hyde Park, where people would congregate to share rants, exchange opinions, and generally vociferate, that might be a real contribution. What are the odds of that happening?

  • Can’t help but notice it’s a gift dropped down from the munificient, and not a democratic speech movement bubbling up from the bottom like… Beta Bridge! I know it sounds ridic., but I get a little tired of the self-regarding do-goodism of our local good guys. My friends tell me to celebrate it; they see a lot me do-bad-ism where they are, so we got it pretty good here. OK, I’ll shudyup now.

  • Dswell,

    that is why we have the CVille rant ;P

  • Can’t help but notice it’s a gift dropped down from the munificient, and not a democratic speech movement bubbling up from the bottom like… Beta Bridge!

    Is it? I donated $20. I think a lot of people donated similarly tiny chunks.

  • OK, I am a grump.

  • In a related story, I noticed the mall has a set of rules up, including “no profanity”. This better not be a fucking law!!! What ever happened to the first amendment? If it is a law, city council needs to read their SCOTUS rulings.

  • Profanity is a form of freedom of speech right? Don’t people use profanity when Bush would give out a speech or something.

  • Profanity is a form of freedom of speech right? Don’t people use profanity when Bush would give out a speech or something.

    Yeah, and when Dick Cheney told that reporter to “Go F*ck” himself. Free speach for all, baby!

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