UPDATED: Anniversary prep: City on lockdown

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City police Chief RaShall Brackney promises a robust police presence but people will still be able to exercise their First, Second and Fourth amendment rights.
staff photo City police Chief RaShall Brackney promises a robust police presence but people will still be able to exercise their First, Second and Fourth amendment rights. staff photo

During the weekend of August 10-12, the anniversary of last summer’s violent and fatal clashes, the city will be on lockdown—and Governor Ralph Northam has already declared a proactive state of emergency.

At an August 8 press conference attended by more than a dozen law enforcement and public safety officials, city spokesman Brian Wheeler said pedestrian access to the Downtown Mall will be restricted to two points on Water Street: First and Second Street SE.

Inside the mall security area, poles, glass bottles, pepper spray and other items used in last year’s hand-to-hand combat are prohibited—but Virginia state law makes it okay to carry firearms. Chief RaShall Brackney said another constitutional right—the Fourth Amendment—will be in force and visitors to the mall will not be searched before going to buy gelato.

Virginia State Police Colonel Gary Settles said he will have more than 700 officers in town “fully prepared to act” in the event of any violence of violations of the law. And Wheeler puts the total number of cops at over 1,000.

Interim City Manager Mike Murphy had previously 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, relocating City Market, and an early closing of City Hall.

The city had already planned to close streets in the immediate downtown area. Now parking will be restricted on additional streets around Friendship Court and the western portion of McIntire Park will be blocked to traffic, 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 fowarce 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 longtime City Market vendor.

She and Cynthia Viejo, the Bageladies, have had a booth at the market for more than 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.”

After the city announced that City Market will be closed Saturday, August 11, vendors who don’t want to lose business have decided to take their booths to Ix Art Park that day. Priya Mahadevan says her Desi Dosa stall will be there. Photo by Martyn Kyle

City Market vendors have agreed to hold the market at Ix Art Park instead.

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.”

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 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.

Murphy said at the August 6 City Council meeting that the city would not be able to provide security at its parks and pools, and that it would be unable to staff some of its parks because of the number of employees who said they won’t be coming in.

And while Sprint Pavilion general manager Kirby Hutto initially said Fridays After Five would proceed, he announced August 7 that the weekly event is also canceled.

Several downtown businesses have banded together to stay open this weekend, and on Monday, August 13, when some, such as Tastings, are usually closed. A few will offer specials to encourage business—Livery Stable will have a 5-7pm happy hour all weekend, and Iron Paffles & Coffee will sell all paffles for $6. Water Street Parking Garage will also be open. (Scroll to the bottom of the story for more information.

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 university founder Thomas Jefferson. Staff erected barricades six feet around the Jefferson statue August 6, but UVA Students United have planned 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, vice president of security and safety, who said there will still be access to most of the plaza. University spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn confirms that access limitations only extend to part of the plaza.

The weekend ahead

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:

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 UVA’s Old Cabell Hall. 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 celebrate harmony and 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.

Open doors

Some businesses that have pledged to stay open this weekend and on Monday, August 13 are: Baggby’s, Brasserie Saison, Champion Brewery, Cinema Taco, Citizen Bowl Shop, Citizen Burger Bar,  Common House, Grit Coffee, Himalayan Fusion, Iron Paffles & Coffee, LWs Livery Stable, Mudhouse, Rapture, Splendora’s Gelato, Tastings of Charlottesville, Tea Bazaar, Ten, The Juice Place, The Nook, The Pie Chest, and The Tin Whistle Irish Pub

Updated 4:40pm August 8 with latest press briefing.

Updated 8:53am August 9 with a link to city closures and a correction on which streets will be blocked.

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