Police Stood By As Mayhem Mounted in Charlottesville
“CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — There was nothing haphazard about the violence that erupted today in this bucolic town in Virginia’s heartland. At about 10 a.m. today, at one of countless such confrontations, an angry mob of white supremacists formed a battle line across from a group of counter-protesters, many of them older and gray-haired, who had gathered near a church parking lot. On command from their leader, the young men charged and pummeled their ideological foes with abandon. One woman was hurled to the pavement, and the blood from her bruised head was instantly visible.
Standing nearby, an assortment of Virginia State Police troopers and Charlottesville police wearing protective gear watched silently from behind an array of metal barricades — and did nothing.
It was a scene that played out over and over in Charlottesville as law enforcement confronted the largest public gathering of white supremacists in decades. We walked the streets beginning in the early morning hours and repeatedly witnessed instances in which authorities took a largely laissez faire approach, allowing white supremacists and counter-protesters to physically battle.
Officials in Charlottesville had publicly promised to maintain control of the “Unite the Right” rally, which is the latest in a series of chaotic and bloody racist rallies that have roiled this college town, a place deeply proud of its links to Thomas Jefferson and the origins of American Democracy.
But the white supremacists who flooded into the city’s Emancipation Park — a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee sits in the center of the park — had spent months openly planning for war. The Daily Stormer, a popular neo-Nazi website, encouraged rally attendees to bring shields, pepper spray, and fascist flags and flagpoles. A prominent racist podcast told its listeners to come carrying guns. “Bring whatever you need, that you feel you need for your self defense. Do what you need to do for security of your own person,” said Mike “Enoch” Peinovich on The Right Stuff podcast.
And the white supremacists who showed up in Charlottesville did indeed come prepared for violence. Many wore helmets and carried clubs, medieval-looking round wooden shields, and rectangular plexiglass shields, similar to those used by riot police.
Clad in a black, Nazi-style helmet, Matthew Heimbach told ProPublica, “We’re defending our heritage.” Heimbach, who heads the Traditionalist Workers Party, a self-declared fascist group, said he was willing to die for his cause and would do whatever it took to defend himself. He was surrounded by a brigade of white supremacists, including members of the League of the South and the National Socialist Movement.
By the time Heimbach and his contingent arrived in downtown Charlottesville shortly before 11 a.m., what had started hours earlier with some shoving and a few punches had evolved into a series of wild melees as people attacked one another with fists, feet, and the improvised weapons they’d brought with them to the park. White supremacists and anti-racists began blasting each other with thick orange streams of pepper spray.
The police did little to stop the bloodshed. Several times, a group of assault-rifle-toting militia members from New York State, wearing body armor and desert camo, played a more active role in breaking up fights.
Shortly before noon, authorities shut down the rally and the related demonstrations and marched the white supremacists out of the park and into the streets.
Charlottesville Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy defended the police tactics. “I’m not in the business of throwing our police department under the bus, because they’re doing the best job they can, “ said Bellamy. “I don’t think the police officers were just twiddling their thumbs.”
The skirmishes culminated in what appears to have been an act of domestic terrorism, with a driver ramming his car into a crowd of anti-racist activists on a busy downtown street, killing one and injuring 19 according to the latest information from city officials. Charlottesville authorities tonight reported that a 20-year-old Ohio man had been arrested and had been charged with murder.
Two state police officers also died in a helicopter crash.
At a brief press conference this evening, Virginia officials declined to answer questions about the police response, but said they were not taken surprise by the violence or the number of protesters. “This could have been a much worse day,” said Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, “We planned for a long time for today’s incidents.”
Charlottesville police Chief Al Thomas said at least 35 people had been injured — many of them from violent encounters between white supremacists and the counter-protesters. He said nobody had been wounded due to confrontations between police and the public.
In the weeks leading up to the protest, city and state officials put together a detailed plan for the rally, mobilizing 1,000 first responders, including 300 state police troopers and members of the National Guard. Judging from how events unfolded today, it appears that the strategy was to avoid direct confrontations with the protesters.
Miriam Krinsky, a former federal prosecutor who has worked on police reform efforts in Los Angeles, said it was too early to assess the law enforcement response in Charlottesville.
But she said a strategy of disengagement generally works to embolden unruly crowds.
“If things start to escalate and there’s no response, it can very quickly get out of control,” she said. “Individuals can and will get hurt.”
But an overly forceful response, she said, can also make the situation worse. Krinsky said attempts to seize weapons might have led to more clashes between police and protesters. “Trying to take things away from people is unlikely to be a calming influence,” she told ProPublica.
A good strategy, she said, is to make clashes less likely by separating the two sides physically, with officers forming a barrier between them. “Create a human barrier so the flash points are reduced as quickly as possible,” she said.”
….Continue reading more @ ProPublica
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Horror and hate in Charlottesville
|| the Hill
“Clashes between “alt-right” white nationalists and counter-protesters turned this Virginia college town into a battlefield on Saturday, leaving one person dead and more than a dozen injured after a car plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters.
The fatal crash came a day after white supremacists already in town for the “Unite the Right” rally scheduled for Saturday marched through Charlottesville with torches, clashing with outnumbered left-wing activists.
The images of torch-lit white nationalists occupying the center of an American city went viral on social media, increasing the pressure on liberal activists to prevent Saturday’s event.
aturday saw many storefronts in Charlottesville shuttered ahead of expected fighting, which began hours before the noon start time for the planned right-wing rally.
The event brought various white nationalist groups together and was meant to protest Charlottesville’s planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
The event never began, with a state of emergency declared and the white nationalists pushed out of the park before alt-right leaders like Richard Spencer could even take the stage. Violent clashes between both sides ahead of the event left several bloodied.
After their rally was quashed, roughly 100 dejected white nationalists tried to regroup at a more distant park.
At that point, they were more interested in getting out of Charlottesville and performing makeshift medical care on their political allies than returning to the scene of the clashes. One man proposed retreating to nearby woods to avoid police or anti-fascist protesters.
“Our plan is to get out of here,” said one man who refused to give his name. “Everyone is scattered.”
Still, they fumed over their ejection.
One man in a white military helmet with a walkie-talkie, who also declined to give his name, spoke about a need for “shooters” who could return to the center of Charlottesville and catalogued with his political allies the number of guns available to them.
Another man with a walkie-talkie put out a call asking for help from “all goys” in the area, a reference to non-Jews. Others heckled a reporter with anti-Semitic slurs, asking how many “shekels” the man would get.
Spencer, who rallied with a number of other white nationalist leaders, including ex-KKK Imperial Wizard and former Senate candidate David Duke, urged the crowd to disperse but complained that the police hadn’t defended their event against the left-wing activists.
“They did not protect us,” Spencer said.
While the alt-right retreated, anarchists and left-wing counter-protesters were beginning to hype each other up.
“Antifa” counter-protesters enjoyed their victory, with some burning flags affiliated with white nationalist causes.
Rumors circulated that the white nationalists had intended to go into a primarily African-American neighborhood of Charlottesville to intimidate people.
One group of counter-protesters circled a group of 10-15 men and women who identified themselves as local militiamen and all wore camouflage clothing in a downtown parking lot.
As a few of the militiamen, some carrying rifles and two wearing President Trump’s signature “Make American Great Again” hats, got into a grey Lexus SUV, counter-protesters circled and shouted at them to renounce the KKK and get out of town.
As their SUV pulled out, counter-protesters chased it down, throwing rocks bottles, and a shoe, attempting to smash its windows.
Hundreds of counter-protesters marched down Water Street chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!”
As the crowd approached the corner of Water and Fourth Street, they were told that neighborhood residents did not want them to turn right to go further into the neighborhood.
“You guys, we spoke to community organizers,” one counter-protester shouted. “We need to turn back. Walk up that street,” he shouted, gesturing to the wide alley to the crowd’s left.
Those marching listened, and turned left to go in the opposite direction.
The mood also seemed to shift, as some at the front of the line danced and others spoke of having driven “the racists out of town.”
Suddenly, screams and a repeated thumping sound could be heard.
A grey Dodge Challenger was driving through the crowd at an accelerated speed, and bodies were banging against its windshield.
People began screaming loudly for medical attention as at least four people were on the ground.
The car paused for a moment, before reversing in full speed and running into more people.
Bodies were strewn up and down the block, with groups clustered around each one seeking to help. Pools of blood formed under some of the most grievously wounded.
Many people who said they had medical training tried to help the injured. People tied swatches of fabric and bandanas around wounds to try to stem the bleeding.
The white nationalist leaders were giving speeches to their disappointed supporters when video of the car driving into protesters across town began to go viral on social media.
Citing a supposed attack from left-wing protesters or a possible police arrival, the remaining white power supporters hurried to their cars.
But Spencer promised that the white nationalists aren’t done with Charlottesville, singling out several local officials for criticism.
“We are never backing down, we are going to be back here,” Spencer said.
Hours later, people lingered at the site where the protesters were run over, trying to figure out what had happened and why.
“Them people getting run over is ridiculous. It should have never gotten that far,” said a man who identified himself as a Charlottesville resident. “That car should have been nowhere around there. Police is supposed to keep order. They should have blocked off the street and kept people 100 yards apart.”
“I can’t understand how any of this happened,” one woman said ahead of a vigil planned for later Saturday night on the University of Virginia lawn.”
…Continue reading more @ The Hill
Well there goes the 1st Amendment
“A female reporter for the Hill was allegedly punched by an “Antifa” protester in the wake of a deadly car attack in Charlottesville, Virginia Saturday as she tried to film the ensuing chaos.
Taylor Lorenz was filming the site of the incident that left at least one person dead — after a car was driven into a crowd of “anti-fascist” protesters responding to a parallel white nationalist protest in the city. The suspect was identified by police late Saturday as 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr.
According to video given to DailyMail.com by Lorenz (who is a former reporter for the outlet), a nearby shirtless protester objects to her filming the resulting pandemonium and is heard asking her to stop filming. When she refuses to put her camera away, he appears to punch her and yells “stop fucking recording.” Lorenz can be heard yelling as her phone hits the ground, and others intervene.
She said on Twitter that she was fine apart from being “really fucking pissed,” and said she was attempting to file charges against the man who punched her.”
…Continue reading more @ Breitbart