Charlottesville was a Catastrophe, but could the Police have Prevented the further Escalation of Violence?

Terry McAuliffe

The event which took place on August 12th 2017 in Charlottesville Virginia was another abysmal display of the dogged, hate filled and low tier political violence which has gradually overridden civil discourse in The United States. What took place in Virginia however did not occur in a vacuum. For several months this type of pathetic street violence between the so called left and right has been all to frequent, and has often ended in significant injury and property damage.

Over the last year or so, there is a significant amount of empirical evidence to suggest it has been the violent action of the left-wing group Anti-fa, as well as elements of Black Lives Matter, which have promulgated a semi-militarized and confrontational approach to anyone in the right-wing, Republicans, police officers, or anyone associated with Donald Trump. Just as a qualifier, it important to note the condemnation of Neo-Nazi, White Supremacist organizations and the Ku Klux Klan – all elements which were present during the Charlottesville rally. That being said, it important not to look at Charlottesville as a singular event with just those racist elements involved, but rather as a larger pattern of political violence which has been emerging in the country.

Between the last year and 18 months or so, groups like Anti-fa have taken action by opposing all they deem as Nazis. However, their definition of Nazi is expansive, to say the least. They have caused trouble at Conservative rally’s, prevented right-wingers like Anne Coulter and Ben Shapiro (an orthodox Jew) from speaking at universities, attacked ordinary Trump supporters, and perhaps most troubling – protested free speech rallies. Many of these interactions have consisted of chants like: “die Nazi die”, “I don’t talk to Nazis”, “fuck white people” and other accusations of racism and association with National Socialism amongst anyone on the right. Anti-fa sees the political landscape in a false binary. There is themselves (hard-core Marxists- Leninists) and there are the Nazis – a projected scenario reminiscent of Europe in the 1930’s, and a historical narrative which these participants have juxtaposed onto contemporary American politics. This false binary allows the individuals who believe in it to immediately disassociate and condemn anyone on the right as racist, and further allows the entrenchment of Marxist-Leninist views onto their own political association – a mindset which proliferates the furthering of communist action by creating a “you’re either with us or against us” type scenario.

Black Lives Matter has also stepped up in confrontational and violent political rhetoric. Although the entire organization does not seem to have these elements, many people within have frequently professed their desire to “kill white people” and murder police officers; as well as utter other egregious, racist and violent statements of the sort. Such rhetoric has culminated in the random murder of police officers all over the country – most notably in Dallas Texas in the summer of 2016; and most recently in a series of unprovoked police killings in August 2017.

By Anti-fa constantly conjuring up largely imagined confrontation toward Nazis and White Supremacists, and Black Lives Matter espousing horrible violent rhetoric toward white people, real racists and actual supporters of National Socialism have been attracted to the fray. These are the groups which have taken over the Alt-right, and caused free market Conservatives and the majority of non-racist Trump supporters to disassociate from the movement. It is not a surprise that calling out “Nazis” by name, and espousing hatred toward whites in general has caused a backlash among the equally ignorant and violent tendencies on the other side of the spectrum – thus causing this ridiculous live action role playing we see manifesting on the streets of America today. It is also worth examining why the mainstream media ignored all this build up, and decided to exclusively focus on Charlottesville – where there were real racist groups present. The organizers of the event  dawned the name “Unite the Right” – falsely associating all right-wingers with their ethno-nationalistic views.  Unsurprisingly, the left-wing media did not see it fit to elaborate upon any distinctions between these groups and the conventional right, and instead blamed what was occurring on Donald Trump, while failing to provide context to the buildup of this event.

The violence which occurred in Virginia was not unique. This type of violence has been occurring for a long time – so the question remains as to why the police didn’t take the proper action to prevent violence from spreading. The event started in the morning with a heavy police presence already entrenched, but Heather Hayer’s death and the violence which led up to it occurred in the afternoon, well after the police had made their presence known.

Authorities who were present at the time have expressed regret over how they handled the situation. It is perplexing how the number of police present were not able to stop the violence which had been escalating for hours. It would have been easy to create a human shield to prevent the two groups from getting into contact with one another – and there was ample time to do this. It also became apparent that law enforcement were forcing those protesting the statue removal to exit where the counter-protesters were staged, despite having the option to direct them elsewhere. At around noon the police had announced that the entire gathering was unlawful and needed to be shut down for public safety. Despite this, they continued to allow the counter-protesters to rally – subsequently causing the protesters to stick around in defense of their right of assembly. Violence was constant throughout, and there was little attempt to stop it or mitigate it by the police, despite having lots of time to do so.

Some have boldly claimed there was a stand down ordered by Governor Terry McAuliffe in order to escalate the violence and use it as left wing political capital for the Democratic Party. This is a serious allegation which requires further evidence. However, what can be dully noted is that the police failed in several opportunities to get things under control. They had the man power, and they surely must have been aware of the kind of violence which had previously occurred between Anti-fa and the Alt-Right at other events. To ascribe direct responsibility in intentionally allowing the violence to climax is a lofty claim (although not impossible). But in all likelihood, what happened was the result of poor judgement and mismanagement by those who had the ability to stop this event before it escalated, and before that psychotic individual rammed his car into all those people – killing Heather Hayer. Blame absolutely goes to the man who partook in that cowardly act. However, it must be contemplated whether the situation would have gotten to that point if the police had displayed better competency and foresight, and if there had been better leadership from the Governor’s office.


Sources and References:

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