Streets are being blocked off in Charlottesville, Virginia as the local authorities prepare for the weekend. It was just last year when a young woman named Heather Heyer lost her life after a car plowed into a group of counter protesters at the Unite the Right rally that took place in Charlottesville. Today counter protesters who intend to rally against the hatred and bloodshed that fed the streets of Charlottesville last summer are concerned by some of the measures that their local authorities feel are necessary to take. They feel that some of the measures that are being taken by the authorities may be a counterproductive overreaction to the events that are taking place this weekend.
An independent investigation that looked into the violence that occurred at last years rally determined that a large amount of the chaos was due to the passive response that had been taken by law enforcement and poor preparation and coordination between state and local police. A University of Virginia professor, Lisa Woolfork, feel that the local police are trying to compensate for what occurred last year with a huge overwhelming show of force that has made the police presence very well known and felt strongly this year. While speaking to the local media Woolfork said, “last year, I was afraid of the Nazis. This year, I’m afraid of the police. This is not making anyone that I know feel safe.”
She is not alone in feeling this way. There are several others who feel that the militarization of the local police for this weekends events are an overreaction. I personally have to wonder who exactly are the police trying to protect and make feel safe if the members of their own community do not feel safe with having them around in large numbers like they are this weekend. Is it really the people of the community who they are trying to keep safe or are they trying to cover their own a** this year and keep another embarrassing investigation from determining that they are partly responsible for the death of the next Heather Heyer?
An organizer for Showing Up for Racial Justice, Grace Aheron, expressed similar feelings to those of Lisa Woolfork when she said, “I’m not looking forward to what that’s going to look like this weekend.”
Torch carrying white supremacist marched through the University of Virginia’s campus on the evening of last years Unite the Right rally as they shouted racist and anti-Semitic slogans. Saturday while the University of Virginia is hosting a “morning of reflection and renewal”, with poetry readings and musical entertainment students and activists are also planning to hold a “Rally for Justice.” A gathering at a park in Charlottesville has also been planned by activists for Sunday morning.
There will be tension in the air as emotions run high on Sunday which is the one year anniversary of last years violence that saw Heather Heyer’s life tragically come to a premature end. Hundreds of members of the alt-right had come together in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a statue of confederate general Robert E. Lee from a park that had been named after him. The two opposing crowds that were made up of those who wanted to protect the statue and those who wanted the statue taken down came to blows with one another before 21 year old James Fields Jr. plowed the car he was driving right into the crowd of people killing 32 year old Heather Heyer. Since that time Fields Jr. has found himself charged with murder due to the death of Heather Heyer as well as various hate crimes.
After the city of Charlottesville refused to issue him another permit to hold an event this weekend, last years Unite the Right rally organizer, Jason Kessler, took the city of Charlottesville to court. The lawsuit brought against the city of Charlottesville was dropped last week when Kessler made the decision to continue pushing forward with a “white civil rights” rally that will be held in our nations capital on Sunday.
Earlier this week to prepare for what they are expecting to occur in Charlottesville, Virginia Governor, Ralph Northam and the city both declared a state of emergency. The declaration of a state of emergency that has been made by the state has freed $2 million in state funds to be spent in case of an emergency and frees up the Virginia National Guard to assist in security efforts.
The thing is that for a city that the state of Virginia and the local police seem to be going through a lot of trouble to secure and protect, the people of Charlottesville don’t feel very secure and protected.