Peaceful events, heavy security mark rally anniversary
Published 8:40 am Monday, August 13, 2018
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Charlottesville, Virginia, was marking the anniversary of last summer’s white supremacist violence with marches, vigils and other community events that began unfolding peacefully Saturday amid a heavy police presence.
As many businesses in a popular downtown shopping district began to open Saturday, law enforcement officers outnumbered visitors. Concrete barriers and metal fences had been erected, and police were searching bags at two checkpoints where people could enter or leave.
“It’s nice that they’re here to protect us,” said Lara Mitchell, 66, a sales associate at a shop that sells artwork, jewelry, and other items. “It feels good that they’re here in front of our store. Last year was a whole different story. It looked like a war zone last year compared to what it is today.”
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Saturday marked the anniversary of a nighttime march by torch-toting white supremacists through the University of Virginia’s campus a day ahead of a larger rally in Charlottesville’s downtown.
On Aug. 12, hundreds of white nationalists — including neo-Nazis, skinheads and Ku Klux Klan members — descended on Charlottesville in part to protest the city’s decision decided to remove a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a park.
Violent fighting broke out between attendees and counterprotesters that day. Authorities eventually forced the crowd to disperse, but a car later barreled into a crowd of peaceful counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
The day’s death toll rose to three when a state police helicopter that had been monitoring the event and assisting with the governor’s motorcade crashed, killing two troopers.
Among the remembrance events scheduled for Saturday was a “morning of reflection and renewal” at UVA that featured musical performances, a poetry reading and an address from University President James Ryan.
Ryan recalled how a group of students and community members faced off against the white supremacist marchers near a statue of Thomas Jefferson on campus, calling it a “remarkable moment of courage and bravery.”
Later Saturday evening, students and activists planned to hold a “Rally for Justice” on campus.
By mid-afternoon, the city said hundreds of people had passed through the downtown checkpoints. Police arrested three men in or near the secured perimeter for trespassing, possessing prohibited items and being drunk in public, the city said in a news release.