What happened in Charlottesville was no accident

The people who brainstormed today’s events in Charlottesville into being weren’t there to protest the removal of a statue, or to instill a healthy and vigorous debate on race and culture in contemporary America.

charlottesvilleThe goal was to get attention, and if a few bones were broken along the way, hey, you don’t aim to start a race war without thinking ahead to the blood that will need to be shed.

Credit to them for generating controversy over the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from a downtown park, or trying.

The early efforts petered out at making just the local news, but the stakes got raised when a guy running for the Republican governor nomination got involved, and got the ball rolling.

A blogger who is a fellow UVA alum announced the plans for this rally a couple of months ago, and you just knew from the moment you heard this was coming that it wasn’t going to go well.

Because, seriously, why pick Charlottesville? Local Republicans refer to it derisively as the “People’s Republic of Charlottesville” for a good reason. Charlottesville, the home to the University of Virginia, regularly votes 80 percent-plus Democrat in local, state and national elections.

It’s mad genius to say that this is precisely why you pick Charlottesville. Because as much as local and state leaders tried to get the message out that folks who don’t agree with the sentiments to be expressed at the #UniteTheRight rally should just stay away, come on, like people were going to stay away.

The TV cameras would have had nothing to broadcast, of course, if all that had gone down today was the Nazis gave a few speeches to a crowd of nobody, gone off to the Waffle House to celebrate their big success and then climbed back into their rolling meth labs to go back home to West Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina and wherever else they came from.

Did they even have an actual rally planned? Maybe, but don’t bet the ranch on there having been too much put into the planning of who was going to speak first, and then who was going to speak second, and what everybody was going to say, and where they were going to put the podium, and who was going to stand beside whom.

Best case scenario, the vile hate that the organizers were promising was going to be spewed would bring out hundreds, even thousands, of counterprotesters, and then the game could get started.

The gambit worked.

Local police unwittingly aided in their effort, taking their cue from the criticism of tactics employed in response to demonstrations in Ferguson and Baltimore, and going zealously in the direction of kid gloves.

Seriously, seeing the footage on TV and Twitter, it was like watching outtakes from “The Purge.” Pepper spray in bottles, pepper spray in water balloons, water bottles with cement.

Everything, it seemed, was legal. I swear I saw a guy in a parking garage get hit with a kendo stick. The only thing missing was somebody going through a table and people chanting “ECW!” from the sidewalk.

Then police wisely (beware of dripping sarcasm) called the whole thing off an hour before it was supposed to start.

So, we had thousands of people in a tight space in downtown, suddenly being told to leave the area, with nowhere to go, and no reason now not to let things escalate.

The Nazis decided to head to McIntire Park, about a mile away. The counterprotestors milled about at the scene of the original planned rally, and things seemed to calm down, largely, surprisingly.

I don’t presume that the plan going in was to leave one of the Nazis who happened to have the keys to a souped up Dodge Charger behind to plow through a group of counterprotesters having let their guard down, but the opportunity sure presented itself.

The day was already dark as he made his way down the tight city street at speeds reportedly approaching 40 mph.

It turned tragic as people were knocked into the air, the ground, between and over cars, no match for a 4,000-pound street missile.

As I write this column, the official toll is a total of 20 people impacted. One dead, 19 injured, five critically, four more in serious condition.

Bones were broken, blood shed.

The president, who built his primary campaign on a nationalist message that was embraced by Nazi right, went live on TV to decry the violence emanating from “many sides,” as if the woman who was killed and the others seriously and critically injured are as much to blame for what happened for being in the street as the jerkwad who drove the sports car 40 mph into them.

And the guy who had been running for the Republican governor nomination went on Facebook Live to tell his supporters that “we must not allow the left to crack down on free speech” after today’s events.

Yes, let’s make sure the left doesn’t somehow crack down on “free speech.”

Because, see, that’s what this was all about. It was a PR stunt, with a dead woman lying on the streets of Charlottesville as a convenient prop.

Heaping insult upon injury, two more people – Virginia State Police troopers – died in the crash of a helicopter that had been providing aerial surveillance of the rally.

Three people woke up this morning, no doubt assumed they would wake up tomorrow morning, and they’re gone.

The hateful who perpetrated the events that led to their deaths are rejoicing at what a great day they had in terms of advancing their racist cause.

The rest of us weep.

Column by Chris Graham



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