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Local Government Officials Issue Statements Ahead of Unite the Right

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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -

Albemarle County and Charlottesville government officials are issuing remarks on the anticipated Unite the Right rally that is expected to take place Saturday, August 12.

Charlottesville officials announced Monday, August 7, that the city would only permit organizer Jason Kessler to hold his rally in support of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee - which sits in Emancipation Park - at McIntire Park.

Kessler has expressed that he still plans to host the event at the original location, which is Emancipation Park. 

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors is promoting free speech but condemns any violence that may occur at the rally.

Supervisors met behind closed doors August 9, following their regularly scheduled meeting. 

Board Chair Diantha Mckeel issued a statement August 10 following that meeting: 

On August 12, several groups are planning to participate in the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. On behalf of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, I am joining our regional partners in the City of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia in urging our community to continue to value and exhibit our shared commitment to diversity and inclusivity as an essential element of a civil society.
 
We strongly support the First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly for those who choose to peacefully assemble and express their opinions. These rights belong to the “Unite the Right” activists who will express their beliefs, and to the many others who disagree with them. However we do not recognize any individual or group’s right to incite violence, cause harm or destroy property regardless of ideology. County public safety professionals will be working in close partnership with local, regional and state officials to take all necessary steps to protect public safety and order.
 
We encourage everyone to be aware, vigilant and respectful in whatever choices they make about  August 12.


The nonprofit, 100 Black Men of Central Virginia, which is presided over by Charlottesville Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy, issued a statement on August 10 as well.

In part, the organization calls on "Our city, surrounding counties, and area leaders to provide clear plans to keep our area safe and a beacon of opportunity for all citizens.” 

Members of Charlottesville City Council are encouraging people to stay cautious this weekend around the parks near the downtown area.

Big crowds are expected for the rally itself and a slew of counterprotest events, including a march through downtown. Police and councilors are encouraging those who do not feel comfortable or safe near the rallies to avoid the area entirely. 

Councilors Kristin Szakos and Kathy Galvin say they will attend different community events around Charlottesville, but will avoid the different parks involved. They say it's important to remind the community everyone has a right to free speech, but people should also feel welcome in their own home.

"It's important to stay calm and collected so that the community knows there is a strong leadership component in play that we're going to take care of the community and keep it safe all the while preserving everybody's right to free speech,” said Galvin. 

Councilor Bob Fenwick told NBC29 that he will be passing through the different parks this Saturday to ensure that everyone is safe and obeying the law.

NBC29 reached out to Mayor Mike Signer but he would not comment on where he will be during the rallies this weekend.