First Charlottesville council meeting since violent clashes erupts in chaos

By Ed Adamczyk  |  Aug. 22, 2017 at 10:46 AM
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Aug. 22 (UPI) -- The first meeting of the Charlottesville city council since the violent clashes earlier this month ended in chaos and calls for accountability for the violence.

Rallies by right-wing demonstrators at the University of Virginia campus on Aug. 12 turned into battles between protesters and counter-protesters. A woman was struck and killed by a car, and two members of the Virginia State Police died when their helicopter crashed monitoring the events.

Monday, after several councilors addressed the violence, emotional audience members abruptly took over the meeting -- angrily calling for acknowledgement that city leaders did nothing to stop the rallies.

Several council members -- including Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer -- fled the room as several people rushed to the front of the room. Two protesters carried a banner that read, "Blood on Your Hands."

"You had multiple opportunities to intervene and you did not intervene one time. We told you exactly what you needed to do and you did nothing," one protester said told city officials.

Police stormed the chamber to restore order, but failed.

Several people were escorted from the room and arrested for disorderly conduct. That action prompted demands from the crowd for the release of those arrested, which was assured by Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy.

"Somebody has to be held accountable not only for the blood of those three lives but for every injury that happened this past weekend, and I'll be damned if I see another one of my brothers or sisters get beaten or die," speaker Don Gathers said.

The three-hour meeting eventually resumed after the councilors returned to the chamber and asked that those with opinions form a line to be heard. Officials then presented motions related to the issues raised by the audience -- notably a call for the removal of statues honoring Confederate leaders of the Civil War.

One motion, approved by all councilors, called for the city's Board of Architectural Review to cover the statues in black fabric as a symbol of mourning for the victims of the Charlottesville violence. Another, passed unanimously, called for the removal of the statues.

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