Guilty plea for man who admitted taking Charlottesville slave auction marker

A Charlottesville, Virginia, activist who admitted using a kitchen knife and pry bar to remove a controversial bronze slave auction block marker from a Court Square has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge and been sentenced to community service.

“I felt it was offensive to a significant section of our community,” said 75-year-old Richard H. Allan III, outside Charlottesville General District Court, after entering his plea as part of an agreement with prosecutors.

Two days before it vanished, a slave auction block marker in Charlottesville had been defaced with chalk. (Courtesy Hawes Spencer)

Allan said he felt the bronze-cast “slave auction” marker in the sidewalk was insufficient in paying tribute to families and lives ruined by the trade in human beings.

“A statute is something we look up to, a plaque on a wall is something we comprehend,” but Allan said Charlottesville’s sidewalk marker was often walked upon and easily ignored.

The plaque read: “Slave Auction Block: On this site slaves were bought and sold.”

In a city where statues are erected honoring Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Allan asked a rhetorical question: “What does it say symbolically to the descendants of enslaved people in our community about our communities actual attention to their reality?”

Allan was arrested and charged in February with grand larceny and possession of tools used in burglaries.

“After being charged with its removal and destruction, Mr. Allan was cooperative and facilitated the return of the marker,” said Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joseph D. Platania.

Allan was given a 90-day sentence that was suspended upon the condition that he complete 25 hours of community service and stay out of trouble for a year.

The returned plaque has not been placed back at Court Square. Charlottesville officials continue to discuss how best to tell the story of enslaved people in the city.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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