Charlottesville law experts, activists compare violence at Capitol to Unite the Right rally

Updated: Jan. 7, 2021 at 7:05 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Law experts and activists who witnessed the events of the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville are speaking out, comparing it to the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, January 6.

Former federal prosecutor Timothy Heaphy, who authored a report on how Charlottesville dealt with the violent episode, said law enforcement acted passively in both situations, despite the warning signs. Heaphy noted a lack of preparedness for the event also meant a lack of resources, like larger barricades and heightened police presence, to keep people out.

“There was ample early evidence on social media and in some encrypted chat rooms that there were people in the crowd intent on disrupting the congressional proceedings violently, very similar to what presaged the events in Charlottesville,” Heaphy said. “There was a lot of intelligence that law enforcement had that there were people coming to provoke, to fight. So, when law enforcement has that advanced notice, there’s really no excuse not to bring the resources to prevent violence.”

Activist Don Gathers said what happened in Washington, D.C. is not surprising, highlighting differences in policing efforts during Black Lives Matter demonstrations and yesterday’s events.

“Look at what the police didn’t do here in August 2017, take all of that into consideration and go 180 degrees and do the opposite. When the community is in need, is desperate and is struggling, uphold your oath, serve and protect,” Gathers said. “Don’t over-police, don’t treat one segment of the population differently than you treat the other, but just do your job.”

Heaphy said there will need to be a review and investigation on how law enforcement mismanaged the situation in D.C., something he wrote about in his 2017 report. He also said he expects greater security measures and drastically limited access into government buildings following the breach.

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