Anniversary prep: City on lockdown

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The city prepares for the anniversary of last summer's Unite the Right rally. Photo by Eze Amos The city prepares for the anniversary of last summer’s Unite the Right rally. Photo by Eze Amos

During the weekend of August 10-12, the anniversary of last summer’s violent and fatal clashes, the city will be on lockdown—or so it seems.

Interim City Manager Mike Murphy today announced additional measures that will affect many people in the downtown Charlottesville area during the Unite the Right anniversary weekend, including closing city parks and pools, the City Market, and an early closing of City Hall.

The city had already planned to close streets in the immediate downtown area. Now parking is restricted on additional streets around Friendship Court, and the closures will begin at 6pm Friday, August 10, and have been extended to 6am Monday, August 13.

“We understand that the city and the task force are concerned with safety, however, does closing down the city out of an abundance of caution play right into the hands of the Nazis and this negative anniversary?” asks Janet Dob, a City Market regular.

She and Cynthia Viejo, the Bageladies, have held a booth at the market for over a decade, and Dob says downtown businesses are still reeling from last summer. “Revenues were down, not just on that weekend, but longer-term, and a year later when there seems to be little recovery, we’re all hit again.”

“Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” says Viejo, quoting Patrick Swayze. Adds Dob, “That’s exactly what the city is doing—putting all of downtown in a corner and not allowing its goodness to shine.”

Adds Priya Mahadevan, who operates the Desi Dosa stall at City Market, “While I understand that they are trying to keep us safe, closing down businesses means thousands of dollars in losses for all the market vendors. Basically disrupting business is the police’s way of telling us they are incapable of ensuring the safety of people who are trying to do their work and earn a livelihood.”

Rapture owner Mike Rodi says the street closures are “a terrible thing for Downtown Mall businesses.” But he also points out, “If we put an end to this that weekend and on Monday morning have no images to haunt us, if we pause on the anniversary, nothing happens and there’s no will for a 2019 repeat, that benefits us.”

According to Rodi, “A lot of the business community feels it’s overkill in compensation of last year.”

“We’re going to be open because it feels like it’s standing up to the alt-right,” says Joan Fenton, chair of the Downtown Business Association of Charlottesville. “Nobody expects to make money. It’s really about making a statement.”

A year ago, white supremacists, neo-Nazis and counterprotesters clashed in the streets without police intervention. Heather Heyer was killed when a car plowed into a crowd on Fourth Street and two Virginia State Police two pilots died in a helicopter crash. VSP have said they’ll be in town in various uniforms all week.

Rodi says he’s “disgusted” by the Virginia General Assembly, which refused to add Charlottesville to a list of cities where open carry of guns is prohibited. “While you can’t bring an aerosol can or pocket knife into a restricted area, you can bring an AR15,” he says.

“I don’t see how [the city] can do anything else,” he says of the restrictions. “If anyone gets hurt, it’s blood on the city’s hands.”

Some of the recently announced closures conflict with events on a city website called #ResilientCville, which also has a calendar. It lists a nonviolent action workshop for August 11 at Carver Recreation Center, which is now closed for the weekend.

And city spokesperson Brian Wheeler did not immediately respond to an inquiry about why the city is closing its pools, spraygrounds and golf course for the August weekend.

Not everything is shutting down. Fridays After Five will proceed—”unless we hear anything from police that we should cancel,” says Sprint Pavilion general manager Kirby Hutto. “We think it’s important to get back to normal.”

And despite the difficulty parking, he says, “We want to give people a reason to come downtown.”

The University of Virginia, which endured the horrifying spectacle of torch-carrying neo-Nazis marching through Grounds last year on August 11, announced plans to restrict access over the weekend to the Lawn (except for residents and attendees of a ticketed event August 11) and to the plaza on the north side of the Rotunda, where a small group of counterprotesters were surrounded by white supremacists at the statue of founder Thomas Jefferson.

UVA Students United plan a rally at the Rotunda’s north plaza from 7 to 9pm August 11. The group’s Facebook page says students met with Gloria Graham, VP of security and safety, who said there will be access to most of the plaza except for barricades six feet around the Jefferson statue. University spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn confirms that access limitations only extend to part of the plaza, and that a UVA representative talked with rally organizers to gauge the appropriate safety and security measures.

Though it’s unclear whether there will be any white supremacist demonstrations in town this weekend, here’s what’s on Charlottesville’s calendar, and a link to all city closures:

Sunday, August 5

  • Cville Fights Back poster launch party at Champion Brewery. 2:30 to 4:30pm.

Monday, August 6

  • Charlottesville Clergy Collective prayer session at Market Street Park. 6 to 6:30am. Noon to 12:30pm.
  • City Council meeting and update on August 11-12 preparations in City Council Chambers. 6:30pm.

Tuesday, August 7:

  • Charlottesville Clergy Collective prayer session at Market Street Park. 6 to 6:30am. Noon to 12:30pm.
  • Why We Protest activist panel at Jefferson School African American Heritage Center. 7 to 8:30pm.
  • Documenting Hate: Charlottesville, a Frontline and ProPublica documentary, debuts at 10pm on local PBS stations and online.

Wednesday, August 8:

  • Charlottesville Clergy Collective prayer session at Market Street Park. 6 to 6:30am. Noon to 12:30pm.
  • Lawyers’ panel on free speech and anti-racism at Jefferson School African American Heritage Center. 7 to 8:30pm.

Thursday, August 9:

  • Charlottesville Clergy Collective prayer session at Market Street Park. 6 to 6:30am. Noon to 12:30pm.
  • Interfaith worship service: Making Our Way Together at The Haven. 7 to 8pm.

Friday, August 10:

  • Charlottesville Clergy Collective prayer session at Market Street Park. 6 to 6:30am. Noon to 12:30pm.
  • Shabbat service at Congregation Beth Israel. 6:15pm.

Saturday, August 11:

  • The Hope That Summons Us: A Morning of Reflection and Renewal at the Old Cabell Hall auditorium at UVA. Ticketed event with clear bag policy. 9am.
  • Congregate Charlottesville: A Service for Repair at First Presbyterian Church. 3pm.
  • VA Students Act Against White Supremacy: Rally for Justice at the Rotunda. 7pm.

Sunday, August 12:

  • Community sing-out to celebration harmony, diversity at Ix Art Park. 4 to 6pm.
  • NAACP’s Time for Reflections and Healing forum at Zion Union Baptist Church. 4 to 6pm.
  • Better Together: Lament, Repent, Rejoice at the Sprint Pavilion. 6 to 8pm.

Corrected August 3 at 9:05am with the correct location of Congregate Charlottesville’s August 11 service.

Updated August 3 at 9:25am with remarks from UVA spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn.

Updated August 3 at 11am with Joan Fenton comment.

 

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