City Council Discusses How to Prevent Future White Nationalist Rallies

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Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer (FILE IMAGE) Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer (FILE IMAGE)
White nationalists gathered in Emancipation Park White nationalists gathered in Emancipation Park
Charlottesville City Councilor Kristin Szakos Charlottesville City Councilor Kristin Szakos

Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer says he cannot legally prevent white nationalists from returning to the city and demonstrating after the rally that took place on Saturday, but it's not for lack of trying.

He and City Council are hoping that will change with a new task force focusing on city code.

City Council is creating an internal task force to prevent future similar demonstrations from being held in Charlottesville.

Early Saturday night, around 30 white nationalists gathered in Emancipation Park with Tiki torches.

Led by Richard Spencer, the group chanted that they “will be back” and then departed about 10 minutes later.

Charlottesville City Councilors call it an intimidation tactic with the use of torches that is "just as hateful as a symbol of a cross burning in the South."

Councilors are looking into changing city code and procedures to address demonstrations.

They say the changes could legally prevent "intimidation gatherings" and supremacy groups from showing public displays - deeming they could disturb the peace.

Mayor Mike Signer says he hopes the new internal task force will be able to ban open flames and other symbols associated with these gatherings.

"I think that events like this give us real cause to look more closely at the number of people that trigger having a permit, the location of the permit, what other requirements can the city impose for an event, especially when you have intimidating, threatening, violent conduct that's happening," says Signer. "This didn't really look like freedom of speech to me when you have torches."

Kristin Szakos says it’s City Council's responsibility to make sure Charlottesville doesn’t become a platform for hate speech.

"Our staff is developing an inter-departmental task force to make sure that the communications between various departments and Commonwealth's Attorney's office and other parties are really clear and documented so that we know exactly what's possible, what's going to happen,” says Szakos.

City Council is asking anyone who took pictures or videos of Saturday’s rally to come forward so that they have more information to identify who was participating.

The city manager is also calling for an independent review of each white nationalist-related event that was held in Charlottesville this summer.

The review will be led by the Hunton and Williams Law Firm.

Signer says the independent task force reviewing the events will not cost the city any money.