Human Rights

Report Says Charlottesville Police 'Failed Miserably' to Protect Public at White Supremacist Rally

Charlottesville police made a number of mistakes that compromised public safety.

Photo Credit: By kc.bangkaew /

Its been almost four months since the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that killed Heather Heyer and injured many others. In that time, there has been a lot of national conversation about the administration’s response to what happened, especially Donald Trump’s notion that there are “very fine” people on both sides. Since then, there have been more questions than answers—particularly about what could have been done by law enforcement to ensure the safety of the counter protestors at the event. 

On Friday, BuzzFeed reported that an independent review of the rally shows that the Charlottesville police made a number of mistakes that compromised public safety.

The city — which faced criticism over the Aug. 12 rally — had asked former US Attorney Tim Heaphy to conduct an independent review of the violent events that led to the death of a woman.

Heaphy's report concluded that law enforcement "failed miserably" in protecting both free speech and public safety on Aug. 11 and 12. The report highlighted a series of fundamental mistakes law enforcement made, including a lack of coordination between city and state police, failing to intervene in violent disorders, and failing to protect public safety.

These failures resulted in the death of a woman, unauthorized deployment of tear gas by police officers, and allowed white supremacists and counterprotesters to arm themselves with weapons, the report said.

Among the many identified mistakes contained in the report are that an officer who was stationed at a critical intersection was removed from her post due to safety concerns but never replaced. This left the area open for protesters and counter protesters to gather and was ultimately where James Fields drove his car into the area, leading to Heyer’s death.

But that’s not all. Apparently, the officers were not trained properly nor given enough information prior to the rally. And no one seemed prepared for the amount of weapons the white nationalists and Neo-Nazis would bring.

City planners mistakenly believed that they could not limit the possession of items used as weapons at the Unite the Right rally and the city did not provide enough information to the public about their plans for the events, the report said.

Charlottesville is not a big city, so presumably the police were overwhelmed by the large numbers of people gathered on that day. But mistakes were made and a woman lost her life. And, white nationalists seemed to overrun the city, attacking innocent people, not just at the intersection where Fields attacked counter protesters but elsewhere. It’s simply inexcusable that the public couldn’t be protected from white nationalists and Nazis brandishing weapons and fighting people.

At the very least, let’s hope this is a lesson for police across the country to do better and step up their planning and training in order to protect the public from these vile, hateful thugs. With a racist-in-chief who supports their ideology, they are going to continue to plan marches all over. While the resistance and voices of peaceful, anti-racist people are likely to show up and be louder, people still deserve to be protected from their violence and hate.


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Kelly Macias is a staff writer at Daily Kos focusing on racial justice, social justice and gender issues.