Authorities in Charlottesville failed to protect both public safety and free speech during a white nationalist rally over Confederate statues that turned deadly in the Virginia college town in August, an independent review said on Friday.
The violence between counter-protesters and the white nationalists, who were outraged by the city’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, marked an eruption in tensions over the symbols of the Civil War’s losing side.
A 32-year-old woman was killed when a car plowed into a group of counter-demonstrators.
Friday’s three-month review by a former U.S. attorney, Timothy Heaphy, faulted law enforcement agencies for breakdowns in planning and coordination as well as a timid response, that led to “disastrous results.”
“The city was unable to protect the right of free expression and facilitate the permit holder’s offensive speech,” said Heaphy’s report, commissioned by Charlottesville officials amid criticism of the response to the Aug. 12 “Unite the Right” rally.
“This represents a failure of one of the government’s core functions — the protection of fundamental rights,” the report said. “Law enforcement also failed to maintain order and protect citizens from harm, injury, and death.”
Charlottesville spokeswoman Miriam Dickler said the city did not have an immediate response. Charlottesville police and the Virginia State Police declined immediate comment.
Residents in Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia, demanded answers about the violence. Other cities across the U.S. South have since acted to remove monuments to the Confederacy.
Heaphy, whose team interviewed 150 people, said no police officer he spoke to felt good about what happened. “Nonetheless, they didn’t protect safety,” he told a news conference.
Officers were not properly trained nor deployed, Heaphy said. State and city police used different radio systems during the rally so could not communicate effectively.
Heaphy said the city had wrongly believed it could not ban protesters from carrying items such as clubs and shields, and city and state police took too passive an approach when clashes broke out.
“Despite clear evidence of violence, police consistently failed to intervene, de-escalate, or otherwise respond,” the report said. “These shortcomings contributed to a chaotic series of events that led to violence and death.”
Among the recommendations made by Heaphy’s team were that authorities should react more quickly to violence, as well as communicate better with the public before and after such events.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum and Cynthia Osterman)
WATCH: Roger Stone greeted with ‘Lock Him Up!’ chants after getting sentenced to 40 months
Trump ally Roger Stone frequently led chants of "Lock her up!" about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign -- but on Thursday, the table decisively turned.
After Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison for charges of perjury, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice, a crowd of people greeted the right-wing dirty trickster by chanting, "Lock him up!" outside the courthouse.
At least one supporter of President Donald Trump tried to get a "pardon" chant going, but they were drowned out by the louder "Lock him up" chants.
Watch the video below.
‘Beg to be tried as a white man’: Disgust follows Roger Stone’s light sentence — while people of color sit in jail for less
Judge Amy Berman Jackson was the target of serious attacks by President Donald Trump's supporters and Roger Stone himself. When the Justice Department encouraged seven to nine years in prison for Stone, Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr freaked out, rewriting the sentencing memo that was ultimately ignored by the new prosecutors.
But Stone wasn't given the hefty sentence that Trump and his followers assumed Stone would get. Instead, he got a fairly light sentence of just over three years.
Leading up to the sentence, Berman Jackson was blasted on Twitter. So, it's unclear how Trump and his followers will manage to attack the judge for the sentence. Some still managed to do it, saying Stone shouldn't have been sentenced to any time at all.
‘Church has no reason to fear history’: Vatican to open wartime archives of Pius XII
More than 150 historians and researchers have signed up to access the soon-to-open Vatican archives of Pope Pius XII, evidence of the intense scholarly interest into the World War II-era pope and his record during the Holocaust, officials said Thursday.
Cardinal José Tolentino Calaça de Mendonça, the Vatican’s chief librarian, told reporters that all researchers — regardless of nationality, faith and ideology — were welcome to request permission to use the Vatican’s Apostolic Library, which will open the archive on March 2.