Statement from the City of Charlottesville on the Oct. 7 white supremacist rally:
At approximately 7:40 p.m. last night, Richard Spencer and a group or approximately 40 people held an unannounced tiki torch rally in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville that lasted approximately 10 minutes. At the end of the rally, Spencer and his group then immediately left the park, boarded a tour bus at another location and left the City of Charlottesville.
City leadership has been working together, and consulting with outside sources, to develop changes to the code and procedures in an effort to address the events of the last four months. The City Council has asked the City Manager’s Office to build on that work by developing an internal task force between City departments to create a comprehensive plan to prevent future re-occurrences. The task force will continue to develop proactive strategies regarding the law, policing, regulations, communications, intelligence-gathering, and community outreach to vulnerable populations regarding white nationalist events in Charlottesville. The task force will guide City government actions through the Office of the City Manager. City Council will be regularly briefed on the work and recommendations of the task force and will be able to take action where it deems necessary.
In addition to the task force, the list below provides a glimpse of the City’s efforts to develop the tools it needs to accomplish the goal of preventing future incidents like the ones experienced in recent months.
- An independent review of the events of May 13th, July 8th and August 12th was commissioned by the City Manager. The law firm of Hunton & Williams was retained to lead that review, with Mr. Tim Heaphy, former U.S. Attorney from the Western District of Virginia, serving as the lead reviewer. A final report is expected by the end of November with a formal presentation to the City Council scheduled for its meeting on December 4th.
- A community group has been formed to pro-actively address some of the issues that have been raised by the public at City Council meetings since August 12th and at the Town Hall Meeting that was held on August 27th. The group will weave these issues into its path to recovery vision and workplan for the city. The City has already provided updates to the Council and the public on a couple of those issues including affordable housing and equity issues such as workforce and business development.
- The City Attorney’s Office has been working closely with outside counsel to develop new rules and procedures to give the City additional authority in controlling the conditions under which a group or organization can hold a rally or demonstration. It is expected that the Council will receive a report on this issue at its regularly scheduled meeting on October 16th.On November 6th, the City Council will be discussing the development of its legislative package to the general assembly that may include sanctions against certain types of guns in certain public places and gatherings and laws granting localities the authority to remove their own memorials and monuments.
- We are exploring various steps to equip the police department with the capacity to sustain the monitoring and gathering of intelligence.
- Procedures are being established for the police department’s public information officer to collaborate with the City Communications Director to create unified communication protocols.
- Mandatory staff training will be implemented regarding relevant local policies and state code, as well as semi-annual public safety response training to large-scale events.
“Charlottesville is one of the world’s great cities. Our progressive and welcoming policies and our belief in telling the truth about race in our history are all key to our success,” said Mayor Mike Signer. “The so-called ‘alt-right’ believes intimidation and intolerance will stop us from our work. They could not be more wrong. We must marshal all our resources, legal and otherwise, to protect our public and support our values of inclusion and diversity in the future.”
“As a city, it’s important that we stand up to and reject every notion of White Supremacy, the kind that is both overt and covert. As a city council, I firmly believe that my colleagues and I are committed to addressing these issues, and showing the community that we hear them,” said Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy. “I look forward to hearing from our Commonwealth’s Attorney about different ways in which we can, not only enforce the laws and ordinances that we currently have, but also possibly creating new parameters to stop hate groups from feeling so welcome here. I want to be clear – for all who believe that bigotry, racism, hate, and any other form oppression is welcome in our city, you are wrong. The Charlottesville that I love is not defined by White Supremacy. Our New Charlottesville stands together and for each other. Let’s continue to do so.”
“We know that Charlottesville has become a target for white nationalists, and we must be prepared to meet their messages of hate and violence in the strongest possible terms,” said City Council Kristin Szakos. “There must be consequences for behavior that is intended to terrorize our community, and we need all our departments working together to make sure our response is clear and well-prepared. Charlottesville must demonstrate in word and deed that we reject the messages of white supremacy.”
“The only way to counter the irrational and despicable motives and methods of a Richard Spencer and his alt-right confederation is with a comprehensive, rational course of action that thwarts every white supremacist incursion, at every turn, and from every angle,” said City Councilor Kathy Galvin. “That is what City Council has tasked the city manager to do and we will keep the public informed, every step of the way.”
“This is not business as usual or a classroom exercise where every threatening public utterance or assembly is met with ‘Freedom Of Speech,” said City Councilor Bob Fenwick. “This is a clear and present danger to the community as we have already seen and we need everybody in the effort, the City Council, the business community, citizens, the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, the judicial system up to and including the federal level courts and our state legislature. This will be move and counter move for some time but we already have dealt the Alt Right a serious blow. They have the weaponry, for now, but we have the determination of our community to live our lives in peace and we will prevail.”