Charlottesville Law Enforcement Brief Public on Plans for Aug. 12 Weekend
The clock is ticking as we close in on the one-year anniversary of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The clock is ticking as we close in on the one-year anniversary of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.
With exactly one month to go, people gathered at Mount Zion First African Baptist Church on Thursday, July 12, to hear from city officials on how law enforcement plans to make sure we don’t experience a repeat of what happened last year.
City officials teamed up with Albemarle County, University of Virginia, and Virginia State Police to discuss their unified safety plans.
After the briefing, they answered community questions for close to 90 minutes. However, many in the audience were dissatisfied with the vague responses they received.
“This is a community that is hurting, and for legitimate reasons that they're hurting,” says RaShall Brackney, Charlottesville’s police chief.
Following numerous criticisms of poor communication between Charlottesville, Albemarle, UVA, and state officials prior to and during last year's rally, those groups are dedicated to making sure the same mistakes don’t happen again.
“We are preparing for worst-case scenarios, that's our job,” says Andrew Baxter, Charlottesville’s fire chief. “My goal, my definition of success, will be on Monday, August 13, that the community says to us, ‘you guys were too prepared.’”
Law enforcement was unwilling to give planning specifics, but these agencies say they will operate under unified command.
“We will divide up the weekend into operational periods and have key people sitting in the right seats with a clear, common understanding of what the incident objectives are,” says Baxter.
The city reiterated that neither Jason Kessler nor anyone else currently holds a permit to hold a gathering during that weekend.
“There are a lot of things keeping all of us up at night,” says Brian Wheeler, Charlottesville’s director of communications. “This is a major planning effort, it involves a lot of different partners, and at this point we don't know exactly what event we are planning for.”
But just because no specifics are yet known, the Charlottesville Police Department is trying to plan for anything.
“I don't care when any judge makes any decision about Kessler, my thoughts are somebody’s coming here and shame on us if we don't plan for whoever might show under whatever name they come up here,” says Brackney.
Virginia State Police says it will have an increased presence in Charlottesville during the week leading up to the anniversary and the weekend itself.
The city says traffic will be restricted, but specifics are yet to be made public.
“Think of it as like a weather emergency,” says Wheeler. “There may be reasons you don't want to be on the roads, and in fact a lot of roads will be closed, there will be impacts to our parks and rec schedule, to the transit schedule, to roads, and so we need the public to understand those things.”
Jason Kessler is asking a federal judge to overturn the city's decision to deny him a permit for August 12. That hearing is set for July 24.
Another key player in last year’s rally, Christopher Cantwell, is due in court on August 13 - a date which many community members and Chief Brackney say they would like to get changed.