Last year a white supremacists rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned deadly when street brawls broke out as the white nationalists were met by crowds of anti-racism demonstrators.
A car then plowed into a group of the counter-protesters, killing one woman, Heather Heyer, and injuring 19 others. A 20-year-old Ohio man, James Alex Fields, said to have harbored Nazi sympathies, was charged with murder, malicious wounding and leaving the scene of a fatal accident.
Now, ahead of the anniversary of the horrific rally, the governor of Virginia has declared states of emergency for the Commonwealth of Virginia and Charlottesville.
A statement released by Governor Ralph Northam said the purpose behind the declaration is “to address the potential impacts of events in and around the City of Charlottesville and outside of Washington, D.C., on August 10–12, 2018.”
The declaration allows the state to allocate $2 million in funds for any extra enforcement operations. People were alerted to expect more than the usual police presence across the state. Virginia’s National Guard will also assist law enforcers in ensuring peace.
Police also said people could face a number of street closures and parking restrictions and a list of forbidden weapons was also released.
“We are treating this as a statewide event,” said Jeffrey Stern, state coordinator of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.
White supremacists are planning a “Unite the Right 2” rally, this time outside the White House in Washington D.C. An estimated 400 people are expected to attend. However, the actual number of the attendees will certainly be more.
Authorities in the state were criticized for failing to maintain peace during last year’s violent rally as they had not planned ahead but this year police said they are prepared to ensure law and order.
“The increased police presence is intended to serve as a deterrent to anyone who would want to come into the community and exercise their First Amendment rights in a way that would violate someone else's First Amendment rights. People are welcome into the community, people are invited into the community. [They] should be here as part of the community's voice as we move toward one unity,” said Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney.
Although authorities in Charlottesville rejected a “Unite the Right 2” rally, one is still scheduled to take place at the University of Virginia campus.
Several counter-protester organizers have also planned out events.
“This is for Heather Heyer, ICE abolition, open borders, dismantling the prison industrial complex, and ending the settler colonial system. We will confront fascism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, white supremacy, and state violence on August 10-12,” read a statement.
Spotlight, Banner: Reuters, Stephanie Keith