The Charlottesville brawls escalated when police forcibly ended the court-approved “Unite the Right” rally in Emancipation Park by loudly declaring an “unlawful assembly.”
That announcement is key to understanding the subsequent expulsion of the “Unite the Right” rally attendees from the protected park into the city streets, the resulting escalation of street fights, the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, and the national political turmoil.
Breitbart News shows the timeline.
Virginia statute 18.2-406 defines unlawful assembly as follows:
Whenever three or more persons assembled share the common intent to advance some lawful or unlawful purpose by the commission of an act or acts of unlawful force or violence likely to jeopardize seriously public safety, peace or order.
“Whenever the possibility [of declaring an unlawful assembly] arises, some attorney is going to have to research it. I’m sure that was happening this weekend in a couple places around Virginia. Specifically, the governor’s office, the Attorney General’s office, the county attorney for Albemarle, and the City attorney for Charlottesville,” former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli told Breitbart News.
“Sorry … it’s just so rarely used … no one has expertise in it,” Cuccinelli added.
Sometime between 11:40 a.m. and noon, a helmet-clad police officer — either a member of the Virginia State Police or the Charlottesville Police Department — is seen in this YouTube video issuing the following warning at a street corner on one of the boundaries of what appears to be Emancipation Park. The controversial statue of Robert E. Lee is seen in the upper left background of the video. On the outer edge of the park, between the statue and the stairs leading to the street, a line of Virginia State Police officers with helmets down and shields can be seen.
“By authority of the Commonwealth of Virginia, this event has been declared an unlawful assembly. If you do not leave the area immediately, you will be arrested,” the police officer says into a red megaphone, beginning at about the 16-second mark of the video below.
*EXPLICIT LANGUAGE WARNING*
The police officer is heard invoking the authority of “the Commonwealth of Virginia,” rather than the City of Charlottesville or Albemarle County.
The Superintendent of the Virginia State Police, Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, reports directly to Governor Terry McAuliffe.
The chain of command from the Superintendent down to the Area 18 office of the Virginia State Police in charge of the operation at Emancipation Park on August 12 is as follows:
Lieutenant Colonel George L. Daniels, Jr. leads the Bureau of Field Operations and reports to the Superintendent.
“The Bureau of Field Operations has as its primary responsibility the patrolling of over 64,000 miles of state roadways and interstate highways throughout Virginia. Personnel provide both traffic enforcement and criminal law enforcement,” according to its website:
The Commonwealth’s geography and size dictate the need to decentralize uniformed police services into seven field divisions. These divisions are further subdivided into 48 State Police areas that consist of one or more cities and/or counties. Manpower is allocated based upon workload demands at the city and county level.
The commander of Division 3, based in Appomattox, reports to Lt. Col. Daniels. The commander of the Area 18 office, based in Charlottesville, with responsibilities for Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, and Nelson Counties, reports to the Division 3 commander.
“At approximately 11:40 a.m., law enforcement officials declared the rally an unlawful assembly after sporadic fighting and numerous chemical irritants were used on the crowd, although it was unclear whether they were coming from “alt-right” rally-goers or counter-protesters,” the Cavalier Daily reported:
Law enforcement officers in full riot gear then began forming a line at the rear of Emancipation Park, slowly moving forward to push people out of the park and toward the counter-protesters, many of whom were acting aggressively. Police warned anyone who remained in the park, on the street or in the sidewalk that they would be arrested.
Following the declaration of an unlawful assembly, many of the protesters began moving to McIntire Park, with others dispersing entirely and some staying to protest on the Downtown Mall opposite both police and counter-protesters. . .
Saturday morning also saw Albemarle County and Charlottesville declare a local state of emergency. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) also declared a state of emergency closer to noon.
“Shortly before noon, authorities shut down the rally and the related demonstrations and marched the white supremacists out of the park and into the streets,” ProPublica reported.
The Cavalier Daily’s report and ProPublica’s report are consistent with the one filed by Pax Dickinson, “an attendee of the Unite The Right rally and scheduled speaker.”
“Shortly after all rally attendees were present in the park, word began to spread that a State of Emergency had been declared, presumably by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe,” Dickinson wrote at the Daily Caller on Monday.
“It seemed unnecessary and preemptive since the rally seemed fairly well under control at this point. It was about 11:30 a.m., and the rally was not scheduled to start until noon,” Dickinson wrote.
Two hours later, at about 1:42 p.m., at a location two blocks east and two blocks south of the Market Street exits through which the rally attendees exited Emancipation Park, a “three-vehicle crash occurred … at the intersection of 4th Street, SE and East Water Street,” the City of Charlottesville reported.
A Dodge Challenger was travelling south on 4th Street at a high rate of speed when it rear-ended a sedan headed south on 4th Street. The impact of that crash pushed the sedan into the minivan in front of it. The minivan had slowed for a crowd of people crossing through the intersection. The impact of the crash pushed the vehicles into the crowd of pedestrians. The Dodge Challenger fled the scene, but was located and stopped a short time later by Charlottesville Police.
One of the pedestrians in the crowd struck on the street, Heather D. Heyer, 32, of Charlottesville, Va., was transported to UVA Hospital, where she was declared deceased.
“The driver of the Dodge, James A. Fields, Jr., 20, of Maumee, Ohio, was taken into custody and charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count of hit-and-run,” the City of Charlottesville reported.
Here is a partial timeline that describes the events that preceded the events that occurred in Charlottesville on August 12:
May 30, 2017
“On May 30, 2017, [Charlottesville resident and organizer of the “Unite the Right” rally Jason] Kessler applied for a permit to conduct a demonstration in Emancipation Park (“the Park”) in the City of Charlottesville. Kessler intends to voice his opposition to the City’s decision to rename the Park, which was previously known as Lee Park, and its plans to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from the Park,” U.S. District Judge Glenn E. Conrad wrote in his August 11, 2017 memorandum opinion granting Jason Kessler preliminary injunctive relief.
June 5, 2017
The City of Charlottesville renamed Lee Park as Emancipation Park and Jackson Park (named after Confederate General Stonewall Jackson) as Justice Park. The two parks are located within two blocks of each other in downtown Charlottesville.
June 13, 2017
“On June 13, 2017, the defendants [the City of Charlottesville, Virginia and Maurice Jones, the City Manager] granted Kessler a permit to conduct a demonstration on August 12, 2017 [at Emancipation Park],” Judge Conrad wrote.
July 8, 2017
Fifty KKK members from North Carolina held a rally at Justice Park, where they were met by 1,000 counter-protesters.
“The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan held a rally in Justice Park Saturday afternoon to protest the removal of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville. However, they were faced with an estimated 1,000 counter protesters in the park, 22 of whom were arrested,” the Cavalier Daily reported:
In February, the Charlottesville City Council voted to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee, located in Emancipation Park, formerly called Lee Park, by a 3-2 vote.
The statue depicting the Confederate general had come under scrutiny as “racist” and an “emblem of white supremacy.” Many community members wanted it removed, though the community was strongly divided on the issue.
An estimated 50 members of the KKK attended the rally. Some members were dressed in robes and others were wearing shirts that identified their membership in the KKK. Many also brought Confederate flags.
Police at this event also declared the gathering was an unlawful assembly, but it is unclear whether Charlottesville City Police of Virginia State Police made that declaration.
“Counter-protesters yelled at the KKK members and occasionally threw water bottles. After approximately 40 minutes in the park, the KKK began to leave. The City of Charlottesville estimated that there were more than a thousand counter-protesters are the rally. People carried signs that read ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Smash White Supremacy.’ Protesters also brought musical instruments such as drums and trombones with them,” the Cavalier Daily reported:
There were more than 100 police officers at the event from both the Charlottesville Police Department and Virginia State Police, with some officers attired in riot gear. Officers arrested 22 people at the event, including several for blocking the entrance to the park.
As one woman was led away by police in handcuffs before the rally, she yelled, “The police are here to protect the KKK, not black people.”
Counter-protesters followed the KKK as they departed from the park and gathered near where they were expected to exit in their cars. Police officers met the crowd there, as well. After several minutes, police announced that it was an unlawful assembly and threatened to arrest anyone who did not leave. The KKK members left in their cars while counter-protesters looked on.
July 17, 2017
“In the following weeks, the defendants granted organizations, which oppose Kessler’s message, permits to counter-protest in other public parks a few blocks away from Emancipation Park,” Judge Conrad wrote.
“Applications have been submitted to Charlottesville for counter events in preparation for an August rally at Emancipation Park,” NBC 29 reported.
Walt Heinecke sent in an application to the city requesting two demonstration permits for August 12, the same day as white-activist Jason Kessler’s Unite the Right event.. .
The counter events would be held in McGuffey and Justice parks. Heinecke said he selected the two parks based on the amount of protesters he expects, and so police presence would not have to be stretched out to different corners of the city.
Heinecke’s permit applications specify times of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The permits for those two rally locations have not been approved by the city yet.
August 7, 2017 (Monday)
“On August 7, 2017, less than a week before the long-planned demonstration at the Park, the defendants notified Kessler that they were “revok[ing]” the permit. The defendants further advised that they were “modif[ying]” the permit to require the demonstration take place at McIntire Park, which is located more than a mile from Emancipation Park. At the same time, the defendants took no action to modify or revoke the permits issued to counter-protesters for demonstrations planned within blocks of Emancipation Park,”Judge Conrad wrote.
August 9, 2017 (Wednesday)
NBC 29 reported that “Charlottesville Grants 2 Permits for Counterprotests of Unite the Right Rally.”
The group that obtained these permits, Peoples Action for Racial Justice and organizer Walt Heinecke posted the details of these two permitted rallies for August 12 as a Facebook event, which can be seen here.
August 10, 2017 (Thursday)
“Kessler filed the instant action on the evening of August 10, 2017,” Judge Conrad wrote. (Kessler was represented by the ACLU of Virginia and the Rutherford Institute, a Charlottesville, Virginia based conservative organization.)
August 11, 2017 (Friday morning)
“The following morning [August 11], he [Kessler] filed the instant motion for preliminary injunctive relief. The motion was fully briefed and the court heard oral argument on August 11, 2017,” Judge Conrad wrote.
August 11, 2017, About 4:00 PM
U.S. District Judge Glenn A. Conrad issued his Memorandum Opinion stating in conclusion “the court will grant the plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunctive relief. Specifically, the court will enjoin the defendants from revoking the permit to conduct a demonstration at Emancipation Park on August 12, 2017.”
“Kessler claims that the defendants’ decision to revoke his permit was a content-based restriction that cannot survive strict scrutiny. Based on the current record, the court concludes that Kessler has shown that he is likely to prevail on this claim,” Conrad wrote:
Under the First Amendment. . . “a municipal government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content,” Police Dep’t of Chicago v. Mosely, 408 U..S. 92, 95 (1972). Content based restrictions–those that target speech based on its content–“are presumptively unconstitutional and may be justified only if the government proves that they are narrowly tailored to serve compelling state interests.” Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 135 S. Ct. 2218, 2226 (2015). . .
Based on the current record, the court concludes that Kessler has shown that he will likely prove that the decision to revoke his permist was based on the content of his speech. Kessler’s assertion in this regard is supported by the fact that the City solely revoked his permit, but left in place the permits issued to counter-protesters. The disparity in treatment between the two groups with opposing views suggests that the defendant’s decision to revoke Kessler’s permit was based on the content of his speech rather than other neutral factors that would be equally applicable to Kessler and those protesting against him. This conclusion is bolstered by other evidence, including communications on social media indicating that members of City Council oppose Kessler’s political viewpoint.
Judge Conrad also addressed the City’s argument that safety required the change of venue from Emancipation Park to McIntire Park, one mile away.
“Additionally, to the extent the defendants’ decision was based on the number of counter-protesters expected to attend Kessler’s demonstration, it is undisputed that merely moving Kessler’s demonstration to another park will not avoid a clash of ideologies or prevent confrontation between the two groups,” he wrote:
As both sides acknowledged during the hearing, critics of Kessler and his beliefs would likely follow him to McIntire Park if his rally is relocated there. Thus, changing the location of Kessler’s demonstration will not separate the two opposing groups. Moreover, given the timing of the City’s decision and the relationship between Kessler’s message and Emancipation Park, supporters of Kessler are likely to still appear at the Park, even if the location of Kessler’s demonstration is moved elsewhere. Thus, a change in the location of the demonstration would not eliminate the need for members of the City’s law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services personnel to appear at Emancipation Park. Instead, it would necessitate having personnel present at two locations in the City.
August 11, 2017 About 8:00 PM
“Several hundred white supremacists took to University Grounds Friday evening for a torchlit march that was met by counter-protesters and several tense exchanges on the steps of the Rotunda,” the Cavalier Daily reported:
Jason Kessler, a pro-white activist who is also organizing Saturday’s rally, led the march from Nameless Field to the Lawn, before circling the statue of Thomas Jefferson on the steps of the Rotunda.
Protesters marched to chants of “White Lives Matter,” “You will not replace us!” and “Whose streets? Our streets!” Organizers asked for all white men over 190 pounds marching not to carry torches, but to march at the side of procession as its security detail.
August 12, 2017 9:39 AM
Instances of violence took place early at Justice Park, which another organization had been legally permitted for, as this tweet sent by the ACLU of Virginia confirmed:
— ACLU of Virginia (@ACLUVA) August 12, 2017
In the street near the park’s two entrances, brawls began as the left-wing Antifa groups challenged and attacked the racist groups as they walked towards and into the protest park.
“There was no police presence,” Brittany Caine-Conley, a minister-in-training who protested the alt-right rally, told the New York Times. “We were watching people punch each other; people were bleeding all the while police were inside of barricades at the park, watching. It was essentially just brawling on the street and community members trying to protect each other.”
“State police and National Guardsmen watched passively for hours as self-proclaimed Nazis engaged in street battles with counter-protesters. ProPublica reporter A.C. Thompson was on the scene and reports that the authorities turned the streets of the city over to groups of militiamen armed with assault rifles,” the left-wing media outlet ProPublica reported:
There was nothing haphazard about the violence that erupted today in this bucolic town in Virginia’s heartland. At about 10 a.m. today, at one of countless such confrontations, an angry mob of white supremacists formed a battle line across from a group of counter-protesters, many of them older and gray-haired, who had gathered near a church parking lot. On command from their leader, the young men charged and pummeled their ideological foes with abandon. One woman was hurled to the pavement, and the blood from her bruised head was instantly visible.
Standing nearby, an assortment of Virginia State Police troopers and Charlottesville police wearing protective gear watched silently from behind an array of metal barricades — and did nothing.
August 12, 2017, “Shortly before 11:00 AM”
“Clad in a black, Nazi-style helmet, Matthew Heimbach told ProPublica, ‘We’re defending our heritage.’ Heimbach, who heads the Traditionalist Workers Party, a self-declared fascist group, said he was willing to die for his cause and would do whatever it took to defend himself. He was surrounded by a brigade of white supremacists, including members of the League of the South and the National Socialist Movement,” ProPublica reported:
By the time Heimbach and his contingent arrived in downtown Charlottesville shortly before 11 a.m., what had started hours earlier with some shoving and a few punches had evolved into a series of wild melees as people attacked one another with fists, feet, and the improvised weapons they’d brought with them to the park. White supremacists and anti-racists began blasting each other with thick orange streams of pepper spray.
The police did little to stop the bloodshed. Several times, a group of assault-rifle-toting militia members from New York State, wearing body armor and desert camo, played a more active role in breaking up fights.
August 12, 2017, 11:06 AM
Albemarle County’s Interim County Executive and Charlottesville’s City Manager simultaneously declared a local emergency, which was set to become effective 46 minutes later, at 11:06 a.m. The declaration was posted on the Albemarle County website and the City of Charlottesville Police Department Facebook page at 11:17 a.m.:
Charlottesville City Manager Maurice Jones and Interim County Executive Doug Walker have simultaneously issued a Declaration of Local Emergency for the two jurisdictions. This joint declaration allows local officials to request additional resources if needed to respond to ongoing events in the community which are currently localized in downtown Charlottesville. Scheduled activities outside the downtown area are not impacted by ongoing events or by this declaration at this time. Local officials continue to closely monitor the situation and will provide additional details as they are available.
Here is the City of Charlottesville Police Department Facebook post from 11:17 a.m.:
Independently, Lee Catlin, director of communications for Albemarle County, confirmed this timeline, telling Breitbart News that according to information provided to her by the Virginia State Police, the local emergency was declared at 11:00 a.m.
August 12, 2017, 11:28 AM
“RICHMOND–Governor Terry McAuliffe released the following statement regarding the emergency declaration he authorized this morning,” according to a statement posted on the official website of the Governor of Virginia:
At 11:28 a.m., the Virginia State Police contacted me to request a state of emergency and I immediately authorized the declaration. We have maintained close contact with the Virginia State Police, the Virginia National Guard, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, and other state and local officials on the ground in Charlottesville, and I agree that the situation in Charlottesville warrants an emergency declaration by me, in order to aid City and County law enforcement in their efforts to restore public safety and order in the City of Charlottesville and the surrounding area. In the days and weeks leading up to this event, my Administration engaged in extensive planning and preparation to ensure that the rally in Charlottesville could be held in a safe and lawful environment. These preparations included the deployment of a large number of state troopers, as well as the Virginia National Guard for support.
It is now clear that public safety cannot be safeguarded without additional powers, and that the mostly out-of-state protesters have come to Virginia to endanger our citizens and property. I am disgusted by the hatred, bigotry and violence these protesters have brought to our state over the past 24 hours. The actions I have taken are intended to assist local government and restore public safety.
My entire team will continue to monitor this situation throughout the day, and take appropriate action as necessary.
Read the full declaration here.
The full declaration does not include a time stamp or the location at which it was signed, nor does it include the signature of Gov. McAuliffe, nor the attestation signature of Kelly Thomasson, Secretary of the Commonwealth.
August 12, 2017, 11:35 AM
The Charlottesville Police Department posted on its Facebook account that “Unlawful assembly has been declared for rally at Emancipation Park.” The name of the individual who authorized that declaration was not included in that post.
Here is the Charlottesville Police Department Facebook post from 11:35 a.m.:
Lee Catlin, director of communications for Albemarle County, confirmed the timeline for the declaration of unlawful assembly. She told Breitbart News that according to the Virginia State Police timeline she had obtained, unlawful assembly was declared at 11:32 a.m. She told Breitbart News that she thought, but could not confirm, that the individual who made the declaration of unlawful assembly was the Chief of Police for the City of Charlottesville Police Department. She told Breitbart News she would attempt to confirm that information but has not yet provided the follow-up information.
The rally attendees within Emancipation Park were informed that the event had been declared an unlawful assembly by police in the park and ordered to leave at about 11:40 a.m.
On Monday, August 14, Breitbart News posed several questions to City of Charlottesville Director of Communications Miriam Dickler regarding the evidentiary basis upon which someone–either an official with the City of Charlottesville, an official with the Virginia State Police, or an official of the Commonwealth of Virginia–made this critical decision to declare the legally permitted Emancipation Park rally to be an unlawful assembly in violation of Virginia statute, Va. Code §18.2-406. Breitbart News has not received a response. Here are the questions send to Dickler:
1. Can you please provide the evidentiary basis upon which the City of Charlottesville declared the legally permitted Emancipation Park rally to be an unlawful assembly in violation of Virginia statute, Va. Code §18.2-406?
2. Given that a federal judge had issued a preliminary injunction less than 24 hours earlier ordering the City of Charlottesville to reinstate the permit for the Emancipation Park rally, did the City of Charlottesville’s legal counsel provide a legal opinion to the City Council, City Manager, or Mayor as to the additional evidentiary standard that might be required to declare an unlawful assembly? If so, could you provide that legal opinion?
3. Who, specifically, in the City of Charlottesville made the declaration that the Emancipation Park rally was an unlawful assembly?
4. At what time of day on August 12 did the Council for the City of Charlottesville issue its emergency ordinance stating”the Charlottesville Chief of Policy is hereby empowered to regulate, restrict or prohibit any assembly ofpersons, or the movement of persons ore vehicals on any public street, sidewalk, right of way, park or other publicly-owned property.” ?
5. By what legal authority was the emergency ordinance issued by the Council for the City of Charlottesville? Did the Council convene in person or telephonically ?
6. Why did the Chief of Police not simultaneously declare the adjacent permitted demonstration as an unlawful assembly at the same time?
August 12, 2017, 11:40 AM
About twenty minutes before the legally permitted “Unite the Right” rally was scheduled to begin at noon in Charlottesville, Virginia’s Emancipation Park on Saturday, August 12, the Virginia State Police announced to the crowd of attendees in the park that the event had been declared an unlawful assembly. (See further details at the beginning of this story.)