Police response scrutinized after violence at Virginia rally – Professor: Officers should have created buffer zone between the protestors

White nationalist demonstrators clash with counter demonstrators at the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and police dressed in riot gear ordered people to disperse after chaotic violent clashes between white nationalists and counter protestors. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

BRIAN WITTE and MICHAEL BALSAMO, Associated Press CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) 08/15 — A Virginia police chief said he “absolutely” regrets violence that erupted over the weekend when dozens of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members clashed with counterprotesters.

As the world watched pandemonium in Charlottesville unfold live on television Saturday, officers seemed to stand on the sidelines as fists flew, bats swung and objects soared through the air.

“We were hoping for a peaceful demonstration,” Chief Al Thomas said at a news conference Monday. “Gradually the crowd size increased along with aggressiveness and hostility of the attendees towards one another.”

After police ordered everyone out of a small park where the rally was being held, protesters took to the streets. A man plowed his car into a group of counterprotesters, killing a woman and injuring 19 others.

On Monday, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he directed his administration to conduct an “extensive review” of how police prepare and respond to rallies. The city’s former police chief and law enforcement experts were critical of the way police responded, saying the ostensibly hands-off approach seemed to allow the violent fracas to grow.

Thomas said his officers were spread thin and had to make quick adjustments to their strategies when white nationalists began swarming the park and violence erupted.

“Absolutely, I have regrets,” he said. “It was a tragic, tragic weekend.”

Former Charlottesville Police chief Timothy Longo said he was “shocked” that police didn’t block the street where a car plowed into a group of protesters Saturday, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring several others.

“I’m shocked in disbelief that there was traffic anywhere near that level of pedestrian activity. That street is typically shut down on weekends for events that occur on the mall,” Longo, who retired from the department last year, told CNN.

Joseph Giacalone, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and former New York City police sergeant, said there should have been a stronger police presence and officers should have created a buffer zone between the two groups. Longo said he also would have expected police to have created buffers.

“When you have a group on one side and another group protesting against them, you have to put yourself in the middle of them,” Giacalone said. “As uncomfortable as it is to be a police officer out there in between them, that’s the only thing to do.”

Those on both sides of the protests were also critical of how police responded to the violence.

“Their entire mission seemed to be to just stand there,” said Matthew Heimbach, a leader of the white nationalist Traditionalist Worker Party.

Andrew Mayton, a union organizer and researcher who traveled from Baltimore to protest the white nationalists for the second time this summer, said officers were “nowhere to be found.”

Giacalone, who helped plan the NYPD’s response to Occupy Wall Street, said it appeared police in Charlottesville chose not to engage with the protesters and surmised officials may not have wanted to appear as militarized as officers who used war-fighting gear to confront protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

“I think there’s this disengagement theory that’s been pushed forward,” he said. “You’re dealing with radicals and a disengagement strategy is not going to work with them.”

Thomas denied any accusation that his officers had been told not to make arrests or step in when fights broke out.

Charlottesville officers called for backup from state police, who helped clear the park. But police appeared to have no firm plan after that, as protesters flooded out of the park onto the streets.

The Charlottesville Police Department had responded to 250 calls Saturday and emergency workers treated 36 injured people, including several who were hurt in the car attack, the chief said.

City officials had tried to move the rally to a larger park about a mile from downtown Charlottesville, but their request was blocked by a federal judge after the American Civil Liberties Union brought a lawsuit challenging the proposal. Virginia’s governor, a Democrat, said he believed the violence could have been quelled if the rally had been moved to the larger park. The ACLU said its lawsuit challenged the city to act constitutionally.

“Had that been up there, we wouldn’t have had the issues. We wouldn’t have had the car terrorism, and let me be very clear: It was terrorism,” McAuliffe said.

___

Balsamo reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writers Sarah Rankin in Charlottesville and Alan Suderman in Richmond contributed to this report.

https://www.apnews.com/c750f4c840334022ad9091fceb91591d/Police-response-scrutinized-after-violence-at-Virginia-rally

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

Posted in: Black Lives Matter, Civilian Complaints, Civilian Review, Extremism/Extremist Groups, Homicide, Injuries, Mass Casualty Attacks, Officer Safety, Policies & Practices, Protests/Civil Unrest, Racial Issues, Tactics, Victims of Crime

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

7 + six =

Terms of Use for Posting Comments

Terms of Use

This site (the “Site”) is operated and maintained by Law Enforcement Education Foundation, Corporation (“Company”). Throughout the Site, the terms “we”, “us” and “our” refer to Company.  The words “user,” “you” and “your” as used herein refer to you.

Please read these terms and conditions of use (“Terms of Use”) carefully before contributing content. If you do not agree to these Terms of Use, please do not contribute content. Your use of the Site is subject to the Terms and Conditions found here .

By contributing content to the Site, you represent and warrant that you are at least eighteen (18) years old and that you have read and understand these Terms of Use and any amendments thereto and agree to be bound by them. If you are not at least eighteen (18) years old or you do not agree and accept these Terms of Use, you are prohibited from contributing content.

From time to time, we may permit users to submit content to the Site.  You hereby acknowledge and agree that by submitting remarks, comments, suggestions, ideas, graphics, feedback, edits, concepts, comments, photographs, illustrations and other materials (other than personal information and/or registration information) through the Site (individually and collectively, “Submissions”), you (i) grant us a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable and fully sub-licensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, distribute, publish, create derivative works from and publicly display and perform such Submissions throughout the world in any media, now known or hereafter created, without attribution to you; (ii) grant us the right to pursue at law any person or entity that violates your and/or our rights in your Submissions; and (iii) forever waive any and all of your rights, including but not limited to moral rights, if any, in and to your Submissions, including, without limitation, any all rights or requirements of attribution or identification of you as the author of the Submission or any derivative thereof.  We reserve the right to remove any of your Submissions from the Site, in whole or in part, without notice to you, for any reason or no reason.

Submissions are made voluntarily. Any submissions which include personally identifiable information are subject to our Privacy Policy found here .  You may not upload or otherwise publish content on the Site that (i) is confidential to you or any third party; (ii) is untrue, inaccurate, false or other than an original work of your authorship; (iii) that relates to or impersonates any other person; (iv) violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property rights of any person or entity; (v) contains any content, personally identifiable information or other information, or materials of any kind that relate or refer to any other person or entity other than the provider of the products, goods or services to which the Submission relates; or (vi) violates any law, or in any manner infringes or interferes with the rights of others, including but not limited to the use of names, information, or materials that (A) libel, defame, or invade the privacy of any third party, (B) are obscene or pornographic, (C) are harmful, threatening, offensive, abusive, harassing, vulgar, false or inaccurate, racially, sexually, ethnically or are otherwise objectionable or otherwise contrary to the laws of any place where such Submissions may be accessed; (D) constitute personal attacks on other individuals; (E) promote criminal, immoral or illegal activity; (F) promote or advertise any person, product or service or solicit funds; or (G) are deemed confidential by any contract or policy.

You are solely responsible for any Submissions you make and their accuracy. We take no responsibility and assume no liability for any Submissions posted by you or any third party.

Unless approved by us in writing in advance, you agree not to: (i) provide or create a link to the Site; or (ii) create any frames at any other sites pertaining to any of the content located on the Site.

We reserve the right, in our discretion, to update, change or replace any part of these Terms of Use for Posting Comments by posting updates and/or changes to our Site.  It is your responsibility to check this page periodically for changes.  Your continued use of, and/or access to the Site, following the posting of any changes to these Terms of Use for Posting Comments, constitutes your acceptance of those changes.