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Charlottesville authorities failed to protect public safety and free speech: report

[JURIST] Charlottesville authorities failed to protect public safety and free speech during the August white supremacist rally that turned deadly, according to an independent report [text, PDF] by US Attorney Timothy Heaphy [profile] found that , citing breakdowns in planning and coordination.

Heaphy revealed that Virginia state police and police chief Al Thomas refused to make commanders available for interviews following the rally, made officers wary of retaliation for speaking with investigators, and that Thomas deleted text messages relevant to the investigation. Murphy disclosed that Thomas stated when the violence first broke out, "Let them fight, it will make it easier to declare an unlawful assembly." Thomas's lawyer denied texts were deleted and that he made those remarks. Heaphy concluded that:

"the City of Charlottesville protected neither free expression nor public safety on August 12. The City was unable to protect the right of free expression and facilitate the permit holder's offensive speech. This represents a failure of one of the government's core functions---the protection of fundamental rights. Law enforcement also failed to maintain order and protect citizens from harm, injury, and death. Charlottesville preserved neither of those principles on August 12, which has led to deep distrust of government within this community."
Heaphy interviewed 150 people and he said that no police officer with whom he spoke felt good about what happened on August 12.

The violence in Charlottesville occurred on August 12 when a "Unite the Right" rally took place to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from the recently renamed Emancipation Park. The rally drew members of white nationalist groups who marched through the streets of Charlottesville the night before carrying torches and chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans. Counter-protesters clashed with these groups during the protest, and 34 were injured. In addition, two state troopers were killed on the same day when the helicopter they were using to monitor the protests crashed. The week after the rally, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a federal civil rights investigation [JURIST report] into the violence.

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