Mayor Signer, City Manager Jones, and members of city council, for weeks you reiterated that the only protest of the Klan that you would tolerate on July 8 in Injustice Park was to wear black and silently turn our backs on the white supremacist violence that you welcomed into our city and expended exorbitant resources to protect. You have stated, Mayor Signer, that “intolerance in government tends to breed incompetence.” We witnessed the appalling measure of that incompetence in the police’s brutal repression of non-violent protest on July 8.
You yourself said, “In the weeks to come, resist however and wherever you can. Take your message to your congressman, Tom Garrett. Take it to your neighbors and colleagues and family members. Take it to President Trump.” At Monday’s city council meeting, we brought our message of resistance to our mayor, our city council, and our city manager. Except for Vice-Mayor Bellamy, the others appeared to obstinately ignore the warning.
On Monday we turned our backs on the white supremacy coming from our city council, not only in welcoming terrorist groups like the KKK and the alt-right into our city and violently suppressing those who peacefully oppose them, but in perpetuating the daily manifestations of white supremacy that threaten to destroy the lives of people of color in this community. Our demands, again, are as follows:
- Revoke the permit for the August 12 “Unite the Right March on Charlottesville.”
- Remove the Lee and Jackson statues, now.
- Fulfill the “Positive Vision of Resident Directed Redevelopment” from the Charlottesville Public Housing Association of Residents.
- Drop the charges against Veronica Fitzhugh and all charges against the 22 people arrested on July 8, including felony charges of masking and assault on an officer, and misdemeanor charges of obstruction of free passage, obstruction of justice, assault and battery, and failure to disperse in a riot.
- Apologize publicly for negligence in Sage Smith’s disappearance, and commit to an expansion of the investigation.
- Cease the targeting of Black families by social services to send children into foster care.
- End the Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement militarized police unit.
- End money bail, and release people being held without bond before their trial.
- Stop discriminatory stop-and-frisk.
Far from de-escalating situations of violence or maintaining public safety, July 8 demonstrated that area police forces, including Charlottesville Police Department, are more interested in attacking and persecuting those who non-violently voice their opposition to the white supremacy becoming increasingly emboldened in our city. We find it painfully revealing that a masked Klansman at the July 8 white supremacist rally would be politely asked by CPD to remove his mask, while protesters who made no effort to hide their identities but rather used scarves and shirts to try to protect themselves from CS gas deployed against them by cops, a chemical whose use is banned in war by the Geneva Conventions, are now facing felony masking charges. This is disgusting and reveals that, far from maintaining public safety, the police on July 8 acted to suppress non-violent dissent and expressions of anger. It’s cynical that these peaceful protesters are being prosecuted under a statute that was written to prevent Klansmen from using masks to hide their identities, while a Klansman who on Saturday used a mask to hide his identity was not charged.
July 8 further showed in stark detail the fact that this city is grossly unprepared to manage a tense situation. If police are unable to restrain themselves from immediately resorting to the use of weapons against people who are peacefully gathered on a closed street and public sidewalks without any opposition present (the forty or so members of the Klan had left before pepper spray grenades were deployed), what is going to happen when hundreds of violent white nationalists march on our city? We have seen time and again, from Berkeley to Portland, that a proven tactic of the alt-right is to use the freedom to assemble as a smokescreen to create a violent situation – and then count on law enforcement to intervene on their behalf by violently cracking down on their opponents. This is what we can reasonably expect to happen on August 12.
Of our nine demands, we focused on Monday on our demand that city council revoke the August 12 “Unite the Right March on Charlottesville” permit. We are appalled that this city council intends to allow violent extremists to come into this city and terrorize its citizens, the people you were elected to represent. You, Mayor Signer, declared Charlottesville the Capital of the Resistance, while far from resisting, you hide like a coward behind a twisted understanding of the first amendment privileges which, as July 8 demonstrated, are distributed unequally to the people of this city.
The first amendment protects “the right of the people to peaceably assemble.” We know for a fact that those who plan to come to our city on August 12 are not peaceful. They are violent and dangerous. The city’s special event regulations state in section 3.4.5.b that a permit may be denied when “it reasonably appears that the proposed activity will present a danger to public safety or health or would be unlawful” or when, in section f, “the proposed special event cannot be accommodated within a reasonable allocation of city funds and/or resources.” We know that if July 8 was any indication, this August 12 “March on Charlottesville” will entail an unreasonable expenditure of city resources. As for section b, we have well-documented evidence that the groups coming on August 12 intend to be violent. Their targets include people on this city council. They especially include the vulnerable populations of this city, particularly people of color. Mayor Signer, do you want to take credit for telling Charlottesville’s history of race? Then don’t stand by passively as our residents of color are victimized by extremist violence. The privileges afforded by the first amendment do not supersede the people of this community’s right to life.
Even the white nationalist organizers acknowledge that they are not intending to peaceably assemble to exercise freedom of speech but are using the event as a pretext for violent attacks against their political opponents. Given this evidence, we cannot, as a city, continue to insist this is a free speech issue.
Here are just some of the overt threats of violence being made by the people planning to come to Charlottesville on August 12, which were brought before you at Monday’s city council meeting. They are taken from the document presented to you then:
“The goal is to get a thousand men. They want to crush and demoralize antifa [a term used by white nationalists to refer to all racial justice activists] to the point where they don’t return to the park.” Page 4.
“I wanted to take down antifa and then nail Richard Spencer.” Page 4
“[Corey Stewart] knows who to talk to to get rid of [Wes] Bellamy… The point of all this is to lure him to the park and get him to do something stupid so we can get him removed.” Page 7
“I’d love to turn flank and beat the piss out of [Spencer] after we finish with antifa.” Page 8.
“I can assure you there will be beatings at the August event.” Page 14.
“That day we finish them all off.” Page 15.
“We’ll kill five birds with one stone.” Page 16.
A call for “All able bodied men and women ready to fight.” Page 17.
“I say take them out altogether.” Page 21.
“We need to create a security force honestly.” Page 22
“You have the opportunity to advertise a time and place; you show up with guns and let those degenerates come try to kill you. You literally have the chance to take out our enemies. Not just metaphorically or through rhetoric, but through legal acts of self defense.” Page 22.
“Just say when go time is and we’ll walk in there with a thousand men and crush these little cunt rags for good.” Page 22. That statement was “liked” by Jason Kessler, who applied for the permit for the event.
The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi forum, posted a summary of August 12 that reads, “Basically this should be like the Pikeville rally is [sic] all goes well and we can laugh as antifa gets arrested by police. But it should be noted that Based Stickman is going and as much as I like to watch him bash antifas [sic] heads in him [sic] and his group are pretty prone to starting shit.” Page 18.
In a post on page 19, an organizer is overtly planning to commit hate crimes: “Antifa and niggers will be out in force. We need military guys there to crack skulls.”
We further know that Kessler has contracted the Warlocks Motorcycle Club, a group that prides itself on being unlawful, to do security for the event. Page 20.
Any reasonable person, including the organizers themselves, would agree that, given statements such as these, the August 12 “March on Charlottesville” reasonably appears to present a danger to public safety and health. This is the kind of violent hatred that you are permitting to march on Charlottesville.
During your Capital of the Resistance speech, Mayor Signer, you quoted Charlottesville’s most famous white supremacist and slaveholder, who said these words: “Where is our republicanism to be found? Not in the constitution but in the spirit of the people.” The spirit of the people rose up on July 8 to resist white supremacy, but you responded to that non-sanctioned resistance with brutal repression.
The spirit of the people rose up at city council on Monday to tell their stories of the brutal repression they experienced and witnessed on July 8 and to plead with you to resist the violent white supremacists who wish to physically attack the people you were elected to represent, and you responded with lies and calls for civility and following the rules.
The fact that you, Mayor Signer, would declare Charlottesville the Capital of the Resistance, only to deploy chemical weapons against non-violent resistance and call that repression nothing more than “unfortunate” renders all of your liberal declarations about this city and your motives for making them deeply suspect. Is this how you plan to push through the Strategic Investment Area and other city policies to further marginalize poor folks and people of color in this city? Is this how you plan to continue to steamroll anyone who stands in the way of Charlottesville’s alarming rate of gentrification? By rolling out the welcome mat to any group that seeks to destroy Charlottesville’s communities of color, while pretending that by doing so you are championing the white liberal ideals of free speech and free assembly? To not do so would not only be unreasonable; it would be callous and inhumane.
Revoke the permit.