Emergency Personnel Readying for Upcoming Unite the Right Rally
Authorities and emergency responders are preparing for the crowds expected in Charlottesville Saturday. Police are anticipating up to 6,000 people in and around the Emancipation Park area.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Law enforcement and emergency responders are preparing for the large crowds expected in Charlottesville Saturday.
Charlottesville Police Captain Victor Mitchell spoke to the press at City Hall Thursday, August 10. He said police are now anticipating 2,000 to 6,000 people in and around the Emancipation Park area on Saturday, August 12.
White activist Jason Kessler plans to hold his Unite the Right rally in support of the statue to Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the park from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. He is expecting roughly 400 supporters to attend, including leaders of the alt-right movement and self-identified white supremacists.
Charlottesville officials are trying to move the event to McIntire Park, citing logistics and safety as their reason, but Kessler is refusing to comply.
"It would be beneficial for us if Mr. Kessler moved his event to McIntire Park. So I'm not going to say the city put us in a difficult spot, we are in a difficult spot," Capt. Mitchell said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and Charlottesville-based Rutherford Institute believe the city's action could be infringing on Kessler's First Amendment rights, and have filed an emergency injunction in federal court over the city's decision. A Charlottesville spokesperson said the city will have no comment on the suit.
Counterprotesters are likely to hold demonstrations around Kessler's rally, and competing events at McGuffey and Justice parks will be held around the same time as Unite the Right.
Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas said Thursday that the department is still working out officer numbers and assignments.
The Albemarle County Police Department and University of Virginia Police will be assisting Saturday by responding to emergency calls in the city. Members of the Virginia State Police will be helping city officers with crowd control, and the Virginia National Guard will also be on standby.
The University of Virginia Medical Center is also preparing for Saturday’s events by having more staff on call and in the building, particularly the intensive care unit and emergency department. Staff said this is in response to the large, anticipated crowd at the Unite the Right rally.
The UVA Medical Center will be prepared to treat the rally on a "natural disaster" scale. The only other time it opened its command center this year was during the July rally at Justice Park by the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
"We activate it for various events, whether it’s an anticipation of natural disaster, or technology outages, or human hazards. So as a result of that on 8 July we established what we call a warm command center," said Dr. Tom Berry.
Emergency management said dozens of additional staff will be ready to respond to potential injuries, dehydration, and other medical situations from the rally.
Chief Thomas said Saturday will be a challenge, but they have the necessary resources.
"We are prepared for multiple possibilities," Mitchell said.