City responds to weekend tiki torch rally

White nationalists held another tiki torch rally in Emancipation Park on October 7. Photo by Jalane Schmidt White nationalists held another tiki torch rally in Emancipation Park on October 7. Photo by Jalane Schmidt

“The so called ‘alt-right’ believes intimidation and intolerance will stop us from our work,” says Mayor Mike Signer in an October 8 press release after about 40 white supremacists held another torch-lit rally in Emancipation Park. “They could not be more wrong. We must marshal all our resources, legal and otherwise, to protect our public and support our values of inclusion and diversity in the future.”

Richard Spencer. Photo: Jalane Schmidt

Police say the rally, led by UVA alumni Richard Spencer, started around 7:40pm October 7, lasted approximately 5 to 10 minutes and consisted of about 40 to 50 people—most wearing what’s become the uniform of white nationalists, khakis and white polos.

Witnesses identified the Right Stuff host Mike Enoch and Identity Evropa CEO Eli Mosley among the mix.

The white nationalists chanted the same refrain from their May 13 rally, “You will not replace us,” “Jews will not replace us,” and “Russia is our friend,” and they made it clear they’d be back to give the speeches they weren’t allowed to give August 12, says activist Jalane Schmidt. Then they hopped into vans and police say they followed them to make sure they left the city.

Schmidt was walking downtown when she saw the torches and called for backup. The UVA associate professor, who snapped photos of what she calls the “goons,” was one of about 20 activists who then gathered at Congregation Beth Israel in case any alt-right stragglers decided to target the synagogue while its congregation was outside celebrating Sukkot.

“As a city, it’s important that we stand up to and reject every notion of white supremacy, the kind that is both overt and covert,” said Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy in the city’s press release. “As a city council, I firmly believe that my colleagues and I are committed to addressing these issues and showing the community that we hear them.”

Bellamy said he looks forward to hearing from the city’s commonwealth’s attorney’s office about different ways to enforce current laws and ordinances, and how to create “new parameters to stop hate groups from feeling so welcome here.” They’ve also been working with outside counsel on new procedures that would give the city additional authority to control the conditions under which a group can hold a rally or demonstration. Council is scheduled to receive this report October 16.

According to the press release, the city is also discussing how to better equip the police department with the ability to gather intelligence, and the department’s public information officer and the city’s communications director are working to create unified communication protocols.

“This is not business as usual or a classroom exercise where every threatening public utterance or assembly is met with ‘freedom of speech,” says Councilor Bob Fenwick, who  calls the alt-right rally “a clear and present danger to the community.”

“I want to be clear, for all who believe that bigotry, racism, hate and any other form of oppression [are] welcome in our city, you are wrong,” Bellamy said. “The Charlottesville that I love is not defined by white supremacy. Our new Charlottesville stands together for each other.”

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