Peace­ful events, heavy se­cu­rity mark rally an­niver­sary

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - NEWS - By Michael Kun­zel­man

CHAR­LOTTESVILLE, VA. » Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, was mark­ing the an­niver­sary of last sum­mer’s white su­prem­a­cist vi­o­lence with marches, vig­ils and other com­mu­nity events that be­gan un­fold­ing peace­fully Satur­day amid a heavy po­lice pres­ence.

As many busi­nesses in a pop­u­lar down­town shop­ping dis­trict be­gan to open Satur­day, law en­force­ment of­fi­cers out­num­bered vis­i­tors. Con­crete bar­ri­ers and metal fences had been erected, and po­lice were search­ing bags at two check­points where peo­ple could en­ter or leave.

“It’s nice that they’re here to pro­tect us,” said Lara Mitchell, 66, a sales as­so­ciate at a shop that sells art­work, jew­elry, and other items. “It feels good that they’re here in front of our store. Last year was a whole dif­fer­ent story. It looked like a war zone last year com­pared to what it is today.”

Satur­day marked the an­niver­sary of a night­time march by torch-tot­ing white su­prem­a­cists through the Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia’s cam­pus a day ahead of a larger rally in Char­lottesville’s down­town.

On Aug. 12, hun­dreds of white na­tion­al­ists — in­clud­ing neo-Nazis, skin­heads and Ku Klux Klan mem­bers — de­scended on Char­lottesville in part to protest the city’s de­ci­sion de­cided to re­move a mon­u­ment to Con­fed­er­ate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a park.

Vi­o­lent fight­ing broke out be­tween at­ten­dees and coun­ter­protesters that day. Au­thor­i­ties even­tu­ally forced the crowd to dis­perse, but a car later bar­reled into a crowd of peace­ful coun­ter­protesters, killing 32-yearold Heather Heyer.

The day’s death toll rose to three when a state po­lice he­li­copter that had been mon­i­tor­ing the event and as­sist­ing with the gover­nor’s mo­tor­cade crashed, killing two troop­ers.

Among the re­mem­brance events sched­uled for Satur­day State Po­lice es­cort lo­cal res­i­dent John Miska, red hat, af­ter he was ar­rested in the locked down down­town area in Char­lottesville, Va., Satur­day.

was a “morn­ing of re­flec­tion and re­newal” at UVA that fea­tured mu­si­cal per­for­mances, a po­etry read­ing and an ad­dress from Uni­ver­sity Pres­i­dent James Ryan.

Ryan re­called how a group of stu­dents and com­mu­nity mem­bers faced off against the white su­prem­a­cist marchers near a statue of Thomas Jef­fer­son on cam­pus, call­ing it a “re­mark­able mo­ment of courage and brav­ery.”

Later Satur­day evening, stu­dents and ac­tivists planned to hold a “Rally for Jus­tice” on cam­pus.

By midafter­noon, the city said hun­dreds of peo­ple had passed through the

down­town check­points. Po­lice ar­rested three men in or near the se­cured perime­ter for tres­pass­ing, pos­sess­ing pro­hib­ited items and be­ing drunk in pub­lic, the city said in a news re­lease.

Gov. Ralph Northam and the city both de­clared states of emer­gency ear­lier in the week, cit­ing the “po­ten­tial im­pacts of events” dur­ing the an­niver­sary week­end. The state’s dec­la­ra­tion al­lo­cates $2 mil­lion in state funds and au­tho­rizes the Vir­ginia Na­tional Guard to as­sist in se­cu­rity ef­forts.

Some com­mu­nity ac­tivists were con­cerned that this year’s heavy po­lice pres­ence could be a coun­ter­pro­duc­tive over­re­ac­tion.

An in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the rally vi­o­lence, led by a for­mer fed­eral prose­cu­tor, found the chaos last year stemmed from a pas­sive re­sponse by law en­force­ment and poor prepa­ra­tion and co­or­di­na­tion be­tween state and city po­lice.

Lisa Wool­fork, a Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia pro­fes­sor and Black Lives Mat­ter Char­lottesville or­ga­nizer, said po­lice are mount­ing a “huge, over­whelm­ing show of force to com­pen­sate for last year’s in­ac­tion.”

“Last year, I was afraid of the Nazis. This year, I’m afraid of the po­lice,” Wool­fork said. “This is not mak­ing any­one that I know feel safe.”

But oth­ers said Satur­day they were com­forted by the se­cu­rity mea­sures.

Kyle Rod­land, who took his young sons to get ice cream down­town, said he felt much safer than last year, when he left town with his fam­ily and stayed with his par­ents af­ter see­ing peo­ple armed with long ri­fles walk­ing around out­side his home.

Events mark­ing the an­niver­sary were also ex­pected Sun­day in both Char­lottesville and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., where Ja­son Kessler, the pri­mary or­ga­nizer of last sum­mer’s rally, has ob­tained a per­mit for a “white civil rights” rally.

Heyer’s mother, Su­san Bro, said in an in­ter­view with The As­so­ci­ated Press that she has been dread­ing the an­niver­sary of her daugh­ter’s death for months.

Bro likened los­ing a child to stand­ing in shal­low wa­ter as waves roll con­tin­u­ally in.

“You let the wave wash over, and you don’t chase it. You let it go and you’re OK un­til the next one comes,” she said. “But today, I feel like high tide is in.”

For the com­plete AP cov­er­age mark­ing one year since the rally in Char­lottesville, visit https://ap­ Char­lottesvilleAYearLater


Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia grad­u­ate Claire Carl­son fixes her hair dur­ing an in­ter­view in the down­town area of Char­lottesville, Va., Satur­day. She was in­volved in last year’s torch lit white su­prem­a­cist rally at the school.


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