Charlottesville City Councilmember Wes Bellamy (D) and Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas, Jr. look on as a statue of Robert E. Lee is removed. James Manley / Fox News
Charlottesville, Virginia, police Chief Al Thomas vowed to make the city safer after the fatal violence and destruction at a white nationalist rally last August in Emancipation Park, which is only a few blocks from the park where this weekend’s big rally is taking place.
Thomas also urged Saturday’s rally participants to participate in productive protest activities before crowds become violent.
“People that came here today and planned this march had the opportunity to come here and engage in the kind of action that supports constructive dialogue, a place where people can come together and share their ideas without someone coming in here with an agenda or coming here under the guise of ‘we’re here to protest this’ to incite violence,” Thomas said.
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Video showing police advancing to clear an area at one point where white supremacists appeared to gather outside the City Hall was captured by photographers and social media users.
Crowds spill into the street amid chaotic demonstrations outside City Hall #Charlottesville pic.twitter.com/3jDcAEK8FP — Carl West (@CarlWestACN) June 25, 2018
During Saturday’s rally, a 24-year-old Virginia woman was struck and killed by a car after being counter-protesting. The driver, James Alex Fields Jr., 21, of Maumee, Ohio, pleaded not guilty Thursday to one count of second-degree murder and other charges.
“I wanted to send my condolences to the parents, said that a day like yesterday was a nightmare they probably never wanted to wake up from,” Charlottesville resident Karla Segundo. “I cried all day long.”
Glenda Fitzwater, who has lived in Charlottesville for more than three decades, said the anger and polarization at this weekend’s rally are what she expected following the violence at the torch-lit white nationalist rally.
“I thought they were going to get it right this time and everything will be OK, but it’s not OK,” she said. “We need to stop this and I’ve lived here my whole life, so I need to stop this now.”
Councilman Wes Bellamy was one of a handful of elected officials who condemned the white nationalists.
“Hebrideans as a community, we need to respond,” Bellamy said. “Our core values as a city council are based on community, our core values are based on hate and division. We must face this event and take a stand.”
Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer said on Thursday that there is “no place in our city for hate, no place in our city for prejudice.”
Signer also demanded that the organizer of the “Unite the Right” rally be arrested for failing to follow a court order.
City Commissioner Amy Margo said Friday that “The council has a responsibility to hold someone accountable who did something wrong. She called for Confederate statues to be removed from the city square.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which has been defending the city’s statue of a Confederate soldier, issued a statement on Friday in support of any attempt to remove the Robert E. Lee statue.
“The ACLU of Virginia continues to have a strong legal position on the Robert E. Lee statue in order to prevent government actions of fear and intimidation directed at the civil rights of citizens to express their views,” the organization said.