Bad for business: City mobilizes for alt-right rally

Rapture owner Mike Rodi says the mood among downtown businesses owners is somewhat fearful and that they anticipate the August 12 Unite the Right rally could be a “bloodbath.”
Eze Amos Rapture owner Mike Rodi says the mood among downtown businesses owners is somewhat fearful and that they anticipate the August 12 Unite the Right rally could be a “bloodbath.” Eze Amos

As Charlottesville braces for an influx of alt-white nationalists, 43 business owners have demanded the city enforce its regulations for special events, pastors are calling for 1,000 faithful around the nation to stand with them and the Central Library has announced it will close August 12 for the Unite the Right rally in next-door Emancipation Park.

Organizer Jason Kessler has applied for a permit for his March on Charlottesville, but a lot of questions are unanswered about whether the five-hour demonstration from noon to 5pm to protest the removal of the statue of General Robert E. Lee is an exercise in free speech or a special event that requires insurance—and a place for protesters and counter-protesters to go to the bathroom.

City spokesperson Miriam Dickler says she expects Kessler’s permit to be approved this week, and notes that as a constitutionally protected demonstration, liability insurance is not required.

On his permit application, Kessler said 400 would attend the rally, but in other media, he’s said thousands would attend, and groups like the National Socialist Movement have RSVPed on social media.

Kessler also checked the no-amplification box on his application, but he mocked the KKK for showing up July 8 without amplification. During a press conference surrounded by his security detail, the Warlocks Motorcycle Club, he said there would be music at his event.

“Just having a musician does not make it a special event,” says Dickler.

Downtown business owners sent a letter July 27 to police, fire and parks and rec chiefs, as well as the Virginia Department of Health, saying the event poses a “significant risk to people and property” and will result in a major loss of revenue if the city doesn’t enforce its regulations.

“The mood is somewhat fearful,” says Rapture owner Mike Rodi. “We anticipate this could be a bloodbath.” A lot of businesses are weighing whether to close, and police officers have suggested doing just that to nervous proprietors, according to the letter.

“Most retailers lost $2,000 in revenues from the KKK,” says Escafé owner Todd Howard. “We’re losing money based on choices of Charlottesville administrators.”

“There are a lot of unknowns,” says Rodi. On the Saturday night after the KKK rally, his business lost $4,000, he says.

Rodi is undecided about whether Rapture will be open August 12. “If this summer hadn’t been the worst ever, it would be a good time to go to the beach,” he says. Too many weekends with people posting on Facebook to stay away from downtown have been “heartbreaking,” he says.

Congregate C’Ville issued a call for 1,000 clergy and faith leaders to join them in standing up to hate, and say nationally prominent figures like Cornel West and Traci Blackmon plan to attend.

“I am coming to Charlottesville to stand against white supremacy and bear witness to love and justice,” says West.

At a July 31 press conference, local pastors said those answering the call for direct, nonviolent action realize this is a “critical moment for our country,” says organizer Brittany Caine-Conley.

Congregate C’ville’s reverends Seth Wispelwey, Elaine Ellis Thomas and Brittany Caine-Conley want to bring in additional prayer power. Staff photo

The religious group is planning prayers throughout the August 11-13 weekend, including a mass interfaith service at 8pm August 11 at St. Paul’s Memorial Church, and 6am and noon prayers in the park.

And the clergy isn’t the only group that’s put out a call for support. Black Lives Matter is urging activists nationwide to say “#NoNewKKK” and Showing Up for Racial Justice wants supporters to #DefendCville.

The National Lawyers Guild has held legal observer training, and Legal Aid Justice Center will have a session on Protests, Police and Your Rights August 7. SURJ has a local attorney advising on Know the Process: Arrest/Court 101 August 8 and scheduled nonviolent direct action training August 10.

Kessler did not respond to C-VILLE’s inquiries about the port-a-let situation, but according to Dickler, three have been requested for the anticipated thousands who will attend the rally.

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