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Public Speaks Out at City Council Meeting, Demands Changes to Deter White Nationalist Groups

Posted: Updated: Oct 17, 2017 10:07 AM
Lee statue in Emancipation Park Lee statue in Emancipation Park
City Council meeting on Monday, October 16 City Council meeting on Monday, October 16
Mayor Signer offered an apology at the meeting Mayor Signer offered an apology at the meeting
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

The people of Charlottesville begged for change at the City Council meeting on Monday, October 16.

Requested changes included everything from laws to permits with the goal of preventing white nationalist groups, like the ones present at the Unite the Right rally, from coming back.

“The soil here is poisoned,” says Bailey Hampton, a former Charlottesville resident. “You guys need to take that statue down because they are going to keep coming back. They're going to keep coming back and if y'all don't do it, other people are going to do it.”

Monday night’s meeting was the first since white nationalists, including “alt-right” leader Richard Spencer, came back to Charlottesville on October 7 and gathered in Emancipation Park with Tiki torches.

At the meeting, the main topics of conversation were on changing laws on permits to prevent white nationalist groups from coming back to town.

People are also still asking City Council to take down the Robert E. Lee statue in Emancipation Park. 

“You can rename Lee Park Emancipation Park, Ms. Szakos,” says Dave Ghamandi of Albemarle County. “But no one is free when those statues still act like nooses around our neck.”

Mayor Signer ended the first part of the meeting with an apology to the crowd for not meeting the public’s expectations. He says that just last week City Council sued paramilitary groups that came to Charlottesville using the law.

“That is a lawsuit for an injunction where these people could not gather in our city ever in the future,” says Signer.

Signer says the lawsuit could stop groups from coming to town and carrying on torch-lit rallies.

“I’m sorry we didn't do that earlier, but we did lose a federal lawsuit under the same crappy laws around the First Amendment that were forcing us into the position of weakness that we were in all along,” says Signer.

Signer says City Council is going to try harder to meet the demands of the public. “We are going to work harder, you're going to see careful work on how do we deal with these events."

But people say their elected officials are not listening.

“We have these luncheons, little salads, little lettuce or whatever...and you know little cornbread and then we leave and we go back to our regular life and nothing happens,” says attendee Tanesha Hudson.

A list of suggested names to rename the city parks was handed out at the meeting. Suggestions ranged from Festival Park for Emancipation Park to Court Square Park for Justice Park.

At Monday's meeting, Charlottesville City Council also approved $900,000 for the Charlottesville Affordable Housing Fund. Councilors amended the motion so City Council can guarantee rental assistance for two years per household.

With the exception of Councilman Fenwick, City Council voted to endorse the design of the Belmont Bridge. Fenwick believes that replacing the bridge will result in gridlock since the route will be reduced to one lane throughout the potential five-year process.