Monday — just five days from the Unite the Right rally — Charlottesville City Council held a press conference addressing the possibility of moving the white supremacist rally from Emancipation Park to another location. Citing Emancipation Park’s size (1.4 acres) and proximity to the downtown mall, as well as the likelihood that the rally’s attendees will exceed 400 people, the City approved the permit under the condition that the rally be moved to McIntire Park (130 acres).
The City’s decision directly caters to the organizers and attendees of the Unite the Right rally. These white supremacists have not only repeatedly violated the terms of their permit, but they have explicitly threatened violence against members of the Charlottesville community, people of color, transgender and gender nonconforming people, Jewish and Muslim people, and members of the City Council. These threats of violence are not empty, given the violent criminal histories of several of the rally’s attendees, including the Warlocks motorcycle gang, Based Stickman, Nathan Damigo, Matthew Heimbach, and local white supremacist rally organizer, Jason Kessler.
Furthermore, following the City’s announcement, Kessler released a statement of his intentions to ignore the City’s decision and demonstrate at Emancipation Park. This declaration shows the group’s willingness to defy the city and shows their commitment to terrorizing the community’s nearby homes and businesses.
Although City Manager Maurice Jones spoke of the City’s duty to “protect the broader community,” there has been no genuine effort made by the City to protect those community members most vulnerable to violence from the Unite the Right attendees. Chief Al Thomas also promised in his statement a large police presence at McIntire Park.
This promise is especially egregious in light of the cost of the militarized police presence at the July 8th Klan rally at Justice Park. Charlottesville City Council spent nearly $33,000 protecting the racist hate group – $2,637.67 of which was spent on tear gas and “non-lethal equipment” used on Charlottesville citizens exercising their freedom of assembly. Considering the cost of police brutality from July 8th and Jason Kessler’s refusal to comply with the City’s decision, it begs the question of how much more the City of Charlottesville will spend on a militarized police presence, and who such a presence protects.
The City Council’s decision is yet another instance in which the City demonstrates their willingness to bend over backwards to recenter whiteness and provide a platform for white supremacy, despite the grave danger it poses its citizens. If any other non-white organization with the same reputation and penchant for violent activity asked for the same permit, it would have been denied immediately, and the city would have fought it in court.
The city had a chance to take a moral stance to revoke the permit, to heed the cries from the community, which they ignored. Now domestic terrorism lies at the doorstep of Charlottesville, fuming with anger, ready to strike at its inhabitants.