Charlottesville police chief: 'Absolutely I have regrets'

Charlottesville police chief: 'Absolutely I have regrets'

As Charlottesville begins to heal after this weekend's violence, many are wondering how things got out of hand so quickly.

On Saturday, white nationalists organized a "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee monument at a downtown park.

Terry McAuliffe has been making a lot of claims about the white supremacist protesters that descended upon Charlottesville last weekend, mainly about how the police handled the violent situation. The two groups confronted each other in Emancipation Park with shields and pepper spray. On Monday, Virginia State Police said they were not outgunned by any of the Charlottesville protesters and were well prepared to handle the event.

He was referring to 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who died after a vehicle police say was driven by James Alex Fields Jr. rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters. When the white supremacists, who had agreed to the plan, started using other entrances skirmishes broke out. Despite this, the Charlottesville Police Department and Virginia State Police intentionally departed from the plan.

That was met with swift bipartisan criticism.

David Straughn, another counterprotester, claims he was near Heyer when she was hit by the auto. Kessler said the police were supposed to provide an escort for the ralliers as they entered the park.

Once the vehicle plowed into the crowd, the police stepped in, Straughn said. "If the police had acted differently in the beginning of the day - before 1:42 p.m. - maybe we wouldn't be talking about Heather Heyer right now".

McAuliffe made the comments in an interview with Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson. He said the police in Charlottesville were too far away to prevent any violence. Occasionally, heavily armed militia members or clergy would move to de-escalate these frays, as police stood behind barriers away from fighting protesters and did not intervene. "It's nearly as if they wanted us to fight each other".

ThinkProgress requested booking information for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, which serves the city of Charlottesville, and the nearby counties of Albemarle and Nelson.

State and city officials, on the other hand, have come out in defense of the police's actions.

Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas told a news conference Monday that a hotline was being set up to enable people to report assaults and other criminal activity that may have occurred at Saturday's rally. "We urged leaders from both sides to engage in a nonviolent demonstration". "It was certainly a challenge, we were spread thin once the groups dispersed". "It was a tragic, tragic weekend". "I can assure you that the Virginia State Police personnel were equipped with more-than-adequate specialized tactical and protective gear for the goal of fulfilling their duties to serve and protect those in attendance of the August 12 event in Charlottesville".

"Not one single shot was sacked, with all these people with weapons. And, believe it or not, not one ounce of property damage".

McAuliffe largely placed blame for the violence at the feet of white nationalists.

"We were hoping for a peaceful event", Thomas said.

Charlottesville mayor Michael Signer, speaking on CNN Monday morning, also defended law enforcement's preparation in advance of the rally. "We coordinated with law enforcement officials with whom we put in place carefully-planned safety arrangements months prior to the event".

"I hold the alt-right, and these bigots, and literal Nazis and KKK members and all the rest of these haters responsible for what happened this weekend".

He added that it's the government's responsibility to "set the conditions to prepare so people can peaceably assemble".

"The governor was referring to the briefing provided him in advance of Saturday's rally and the extra security measures being taken by local and state police", Geller tells Reason.

"That's part of the privilege of having the freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly", she said.