By Jonathan Haynes
Indignation hung in the air during the July 12 city-sponsored #ResilientCville event as around 150 Charlottesville residents filed into the pews of Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church to confront a panel of public officials about the city’s failure to contain white supremacists on August 11 and 12.
The crowded panel—consisting of Assistant City Manager Mike Murphy, Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney, Virginia State Police Captain Craig Worsham, UVA Vice President of Safety and Security Gloria Graham, Albemarle County Police Captain Darrell Byers and Charlottesville Fire Chief Andrew Baxter—sat center stage, while Charlottesville spokesman Brian Wheeler jotted minutes on the side.
Before fielding questions, each member gave a brief statement explaining his or her approach to the one-year anniversary of August 12, stressing that enhanced interagency coordination was integral to their plan.
A strident Jeff Fogel was the first resident to the microphone, and his accusation that law enforcement has refused to acknowledge last year’s failures received a lively applause. The Reverend Alvin Edwards stepped in and told him he needed to ask a question.
Brackney said, “We acknowledge gaps, then we respond to those, and that’s how we learn.”
But demands for the police force to acknowledge its mistakes continued throughout the night. At one point, someone asked Brackney to list city police failures. She declined.
Some audience members suggested they would take self defense into their own hands. One denizen said that her complaints to law enforcement last year had been ignored and suggested that she would rely on vigilante groups instead. “I do not trust the fascists, Nazis, or KKK,” she said. “I do trust the antifa. Will you trust us?”
Graham and Worsham admitted that many of the crimes reported by citizens last year went unanswered and reiterated that their new approach will involve communication among agencies and will take citizen complaints more seriously. For her part, Brackney said she understood that many citizens don’t trust law enforcement, and many city authorities, including herself, are new to Charlottesville.
Panelists did not address antifa.
Regarding UVA, someone touched on the university’s new assembly policy, which requires people who are not students to obtain a permit to assemble on grounds. Graham noted that students are exempted from the policy, but also maintained that the policy would not regulate the content of speech. She was met with a chorus of boos.
Toward the end, someone questioned the scheduling of that night’s event, which conflicted with the pilgrimage to the lynching memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, and precluded Mayor Nikuyah Walker and City Councilor Wes Bellamy from attending.
Wheeler took responsibility, declaring it an oversight.
While few preparations were divulged, Worsham said many VSP will be present on August 11 and 12 this year, and in Charlottesville in various uniforms during the week leading up to that weekend—and they’ll be ready to make arrests this time.
Brackney said there will be multiple road closures and parking restrictions. She also said she was “shamed” police stood by last year, and promised that wouldn’t happen again.