Demonstrators protest Confederate monument in downtown Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A large crowd of people gathered at the Confederate monument in downtown Norfolk for a peaceful protest Wednesday.

The demonstration — called “Disrupt Confederate Monuments” and organized by Disrupt Norfolk VA — started at 4 p.m. at the monument. The group calls the monument “nothing more than a symbol of oppression” on the event’s page. The monument, which was erected in 1907, honors the Confederate dead.

During the demonstration, some protesters chanted things like “Racist monuments gotta go,” “Take down the hate,” “Tear down the monument” and “Black lives matter.” Speakers took turns sharing their thoughts in front of the statue. Microphones were set up to allow people to be heard.

Police blocked off some nearby roads. Streets have since reopened.

“If we’re a society that’s trying to get passed slavery and racism and things of that nature, I feel like stuff like this statue… are a reminder of that,” said Joseph Johnson.

Gallery: Norfolk Confederate monument protest

But one man, opposed to removing the statue, told 10 On Your Side that the monument was erected to commemorate those who died, not to commemorate white supremacy.

“We shouldn’t see it as that,” Larry McCauley explained. “[The statue] should stand as a monument for the mistakes we have made in this country in the past… if you take it away, you just put it out of mind and then the problem remains”

But the vast majority present wanted to see the statue removed. Some people used chalk to write “this is hate” and “SHAME” on the monument. WAVY’s Andy Fox reports police say this is not defacing the monument, since it is written in chalk and can be erased.

In May, someone vandalized the statue by spray painting “SHAME” in yellow.

Photos of Heather Heyer — the woman killed in Charlottesville when James Fields Jr. allegedly plowed through a crowd of protesters following Saturday’s ‘Unite the Right’ rally — were also posted on the statue.

Around 6:45 p.m., police asked demonstrators to leave the monument. WAVY’s Liz Kilmer reports some protesters moved to sidewalks and continued the demonstration and then took to marching on sidewalks throughout downtown Norfolk.

Leaders ended the event around 7:30 p.m. and thanked police for allowing them to march.

Police spokesman Daniel Hudson says there were no incidents or arrests during the demonstration.

A petition has been created calling for the monument to be removed and placed in a museum.

Joe Hamm, one of the petition organizers said, “Our goal here is not to destroy the monument, our goal is not to remove it and get rid of it. We’d like to see it moved to a museum or a place where it can be discussed thoughtfully and understood.”

Governor Terry McAuliffe echoed Hamm Wednesday, saying in a statement that he encouraged the removal and relocation of Confederate monuments in Virginia.

Mayor Kenny Alexander tells 10 On Your Side’s Joe Fisher he wants to see Norfolk’s monument moved to a cemetery. Alexander has asked city council to look into the matter.

Alexander pointed out Wednesday that council decided in September 2015 to keep the monument in place. He says five of the members who voted to keep it in place are still on the council now, but noted “we have a different environment.” Alexander clarified Wednesday that he is not advocating to tear down the monument.

READ: Alexander’s Letter on the Confederate Monument

10 On Your Side’s Marielena Balouris reports ADP — which has a building near the monument — told associates to work from home.

An internal memo 10 On Your Side obtained from Dominion Enterprises told employees to leave work early because of the planned protest.

Wednesday’s demonstration comes days after violence broke out last Saturday during a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. Three people were killed in Charlottesville Saturday.

Stay with WAVY.com for coverage of this developing story.