Updated: Charlottesville Announces More Security Measures Ahead of Aug. 12 Weekend
On Wednesday, several people involved with the safety planning process of the upcoming August 12 anniversary weekend addressed the media and announced additional measures being taken.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - On Wednesday, several people involved with the safety planning process of the upcoming August 12 anniversary weekend addressed the media and announced additional measures being taken.
Just before the meeting got underway, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and the city declared a state of emergency. This action will allocate $2 million in state funds and streamline state and local operations for the weekend. The declaration also frees up resources to respond to Charlottesville and Northern Virginia. Dr. Jeff Stern of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management also said they have activated the Virginia Emergency Support Team to assist during the weekend.
Charlottesville's director of communications, Brian Wheeler, opened the conference by introducing the speakers, all of whom helped in the planning process. Interim City Manager Mike Murphy was the first to speak, reiterating that significant restrictions are in place all weekend. Wheeler clarified later that one of the main goals of the security measures in the downtown area is to keep vehicles and people separate.
"We are closely monitoring the intelligence that's available to us about who might be coming or who's going elsewhere," Wheeler said. "I think we would be irresponsible if we didn't have a plan like the one you're seeing."
The Downtown Mall will be accessible through two entry points during the weekend. One entry point is at 1st Street S and Water Street while the other is at 2nd Street SE and Water Street. Wheeler also listed the prohibited items in the area, which includes items ranging from nun chucks to skateboards. Notably omitted from the list were handguns, which Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney said was not able to pass legislation to be banned. A full list of prohibited items can be viewed here.
"We've said from the beginning that the focus of this single unified and flexible plan is that it's not dependent or contingent upon any group that we know is coming or not going, any permit we've granted or not granted, or any court case outcome," Wheeler said.
Wheeler also said that law enforcement will be prohibiting any person over the age of 16 from wearing masks, hoods or anything else with the intention to conceal one’s identity. Brackney mentioned that while allowing people to express First Amendment rights is important, law enforcement will act as a deterrent to those who use their rights to violate others' rights.
"What you can expect...is a very significant law enforcement presence in our community and that presence is here as a support to our citizens as well as a deterrent to anyone who would want to come into the community to exercise their First Amendment rights in a way that would violate someone else's First Amendement rights," Brackney said.
Among other speakers was Chief Andrew Baxter of Charlottesville Fire, who emphasized his plan to respond to a wide variety of emergencies throughout Albemarle County, not just the Downtown Charlottesville area. Chief Ron Lantz of Albemarle County Police said officers will be working extended shifts all weekend, so people in Albemarle should expect an increased police presence and restricted parking. Lantz also praised the collaboration between all of the parties involved in the security planning process for the weekend.
Superintendent of Virginia State Police Colonel Gary Settle said his nearly 700 troopers are prepared to act on any acts of violence or any breaking of the law. Brackney explained that the 700 state troopers, 300 on-call National Guard members, and local law enforcement will not all be on patrol at once and in uniform, but rather performing a variety of tasks to keep the community safe.
"I would urge the citizens of Charlottesville as well as anyone else who is going to be visiting here to continue to be vigilant," Settle said. "You can help deter some of these acts that might take place."
Gloria Graham, the associate vice president of safety and security for the University of Virginia spoke on behalf of the school's efforts to increase safety for the weekend. Graham said all decisions focus on safety of students and community members. She also asked that community members join the school in working to move forward while it holds events to focus on reflection. Graham also mentioned that the UVA Medical Center has made extensive plans to increase safety and resources as it prepares for anything to happen over the weekend. The center’s top-rated trauma center will available throughout the week.
Before wrapping up, Wheeler mentioned that a non-emergency phone line will be available during the weekend. People with non-emergency questions related to the security measures being taken in Charlottesville can call 434-979-INFO starting at 7 a.m. Friday through the weekend.