Friday, August 11
Noon: A federal judge hears arguments in Jason Kessler’s lawsuit against the city for its decision to move the Unite the Right rally from its original location in Emancipation Park to McIntire Park. ACLU Virginia and the Rutherford Institute represent Kessler.
12:36pm: Albemarle police respond to a report of gun-brandishing men in the Walmart parking lot on Route 29. Daily Progress reporter Chris Suarez tweets that about 30 people are there, and that Unite the Right speaker/Radical Agenda radio host Chris Cantwell was open carrying with a gun in his back waistband. Perfectly legal, say Albemarle police.
4:30pm: City officials hold a press conference. Police Chief Al Thomas says this could be one of the largest demonstrations the city has experienced, and that 1,000 law enforcement and emergency responders will be on hand. Says Thomas, “The biggest mistake I could make” is to apply the same operational tactics tomorrow as at the KKK rally July 8. “This is a different event.”
5pm: Arguments wrap up in the injunction hearing.
8pm: Hundreds of people pack into St. Paul’s Memorial Church on University Avenue for an interfaith prayer service to “shore up people’s courage to participate,” says Jennifer Hoyt Tidwell, who attended the service with her 12-year-old daughter. So many people attended that St. Paul’s reaches its legal capacity and has to turn people away at the doors.
9:30-ish pm: Judge Glen Conrad issues an injunction that allows Jason Kessler to hold his Unite the Right rally in Emancipation Park. Conrad says the city’s disparate treatment of Kessler and its allowing permits for counter demonstrations in McGuffey and Justice parks suggest the permit revocation decision was content based.
9:38pm: On the heels of his court victory, Kessler joins hundreds of alt-righters who light tiki torches at Nameless Field and march through UVA Grounds and the Lawn, chanting, “You will not replace us.” They’re met at the Thomas Jefferson statue in front of the Rotunda by a small group of counterprotesters with a banner that says “VA students act against white supremacy.”
9:56pm: Once the service at St. Paul’s ends, the clergy asks everyone in attendance to leave with a friend out the back doors and not the front, which faces University Avenue, in full view of the Rotunda.
10pm: Everyone at St. Paul’s is asked to return to their seats. They remain in the church for another hour, until the white supremacists with torches have left.
10:16pm: Local activist Emily Gorcenski livestreams the procession until the marchers surrounded the statue; her stream abruptly ends and she’s pepper-sprayed. She says she had anticipated the torchbearers to line up in front of the Rotunda for a photo-op, and when they encircled the statue instead, she thought, “Okay, this is bad.” A brawl breaks out and some use their torches to club counterprotesters.
10:21pm: Daily Progress reporter Allison Wrabel tweets that the police are at the Rotunda. After Gorcenski washes her eyes with water, she says she then saw about a dozen police officers lined up. One person is arrested and several injured, including one University of Virginia Police Department officer, according to UVA.
“I went home and packed up and went to a safe house,” Gorcenski says, because she had received dozens of threats from people who’d like to “slit my throat” and “crush my skull.” Gorcenski files charges the next day against Unite the Right speaker/open gun carrier Chris Cantwell, and she says a photograph clearly shows him spraying the anti-racists. She notes that while the media was aware of the march and publicized it on Twitter, “The police should have known.” Gorcenski did not take part in counter demonstrations on Saturday. “I saw everything I needed to see Friday night as to who these people were,” she says.