The Lincoln Project said it sent people with tiki torches to a campaign event held by Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin on Friday, sparking a backlash against the activist group.
The anti-Trump group released a statement saying it did the stunt in Charlottesville because Youngkin has not condemned the white nationalist “Unite the Right” riot of 2017.
“Today’s rally was our way of reminding Virginians of what happened in Charlottesville four years ago, the acceptance of those values by the Republican Party and the fact that Glenn Youngkin did not condemn them,” the statement said.
“If you expose Trump’s claim that the Charlottesville rioters possessed ‘very fine’ qualities, we will remove the tiki torches,” the group continued. “Until then, we will be back.”
Earlier Friday, a group of men holding torches stood next to Youngkin’s campaign bus while it was inside a restaurant in Charlottesville, NBC29. reported. Youngkin accused the men of working for Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe.
“They will do anything to win, and he is doing anything to win, so he is paying people to show up and act silly at our rallies,” Youngkin told NBC29.
These men came closer @GlennYoungkinThe bus when he stopped saying what sounded like, “We’re ready for Glenn.” Here they are standing in front of the bus when their campaign event began in Guadalajara.@ NBC29 pic.twitter.com/l681ejyBjc
– Elizabeth Holmes (@holmes_reports) October 29, 2021
The McAuliffe campaign condemned the stunt.
“What happened today in Charlottesville is disgusting and unpleasant and the McAuliffe campaign condemns it in the strongest terms,” tweeted McAuliffe campaign manager Chris Bolling. “Those involved must apologize immediately.”
What happened today in Charlottesville is disgusting and unpleasant, and the McAuliffe campaign condemns it in the strongest terms. Those involved must apologize immediately.
– Chris Bolling (@ cboll84) October 29, 2021
The Virginia Democratic Party said it had “no role” in Friday’s event and said it was “shameful and wrong” to make such accusations.
Statement about Glenn Youngkin’s bus stop today: pic.twitter.com/Hw0svCAW9W
– Andrew Whitley (@AndrewWhitleyVA) October 29, 2021
Vice News has identified one of the people involved as Lauren Windsor, a liberal activist known for going undercover to get politicians to share her thoughts without filtering.
Windsor confirmed on Twitter that she worked with the Lincoln Project to coordinate the stunt “in my capacity as a communications consultant.”
“I join them in the fight to defend our democracy from right-wing extremists and call on Glenn Youngkin to expose the ‘very good people’ of Trump,” Windsor said.
In my capacity as a communications consultant, I worked w @ProjectLincoln to coordinate today’s Youngkin action in Charlottesville. I join them in the fight to defend our democracy from right-wing extremists and call on Glenn Youngkin to denounce the ‘very good people of Trump’.
– Lauren Windsor (@lawindsor) October 29, 2021
The stunt comes days before the tight November 2 elections, with both candidates practically face to face in the polls. It also comes as a trial began this week in a civil lawsuit against two dozen people involved in the August 2017 riots.
The riot in Charlottesville began with dozens of young white men chanting as they carried torches around the University of Virginia campus. It ended the next day when a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi drove his car into a crowd and killed a counter-protester.
Friday’s incident involving tiki torches, which erased memories of the Charlottesville riot, sparked an intense backlash on social media.
Connor Rogers, who previously served as the digital director for Project Lincoln, said Heather Heyer, who died in the riots, “is not a prop or a gimmick.”
I haven’t talked much about the Lincoln Project since I left in December 2020.
A wonderful peace activist died in Charlottesville on 12/8. Her name is Heather Heyer.
She and that event are not a prop or a gimmick. It is nobody’s to use.
What a profound miscalculation.
– Conor Rogers (@conorjrogers) October 29, 2021
Charlottesville is not an accessory. Our community is still recovering from years of trauma, especially this week.
– Sally Hudson (@SallyLHudson) October 29, 2021
What a huge, massive mistake. The last thing McAuliffe’s campaign needed this weekend. A disservice to the hundreds of hard-working employees in the field.
When people say D’s should act more like R’s, remember this incident. https://t.co/vlwG72Fwme
– Lis Smith (@Lis_Smith) October 29, 2021