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Report critical of Charlottesville police response to rally, violence

By Ed Adamczyk
Report critical of Charlottesville police response to rally, violence
An independent report on the Charlottesville, Va., violence on August 12, in which demonstrators faced off against counter-protesters and one person died, was released on Friday. File Photo by Virginia State Police/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 1 (UPI) -- A report released Friday is sharply critical of the Charlottesville, Va., Police Department's handling of an August demonstration in which one person died.

The 220-page report, commissioned by the city, said Charlottesville's police were ill-prepared for the march and rally, improperly trained and had a flawed operational plan.

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It was also critical of the response by the Virginia State Police and the interaction between state and local police. The report was written by Timothy Heaphy, a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia.

"The city was unable to protect the right of free expression and facilitate the permit holder's offensive speech. This represents a failure of one of government's core functions, the protection of fundamental rights," Heaphy wrote. "Law enforcement also failed to maintain order and protect citizens from harm, injury, and death. Charlottesville preserved neither of those principles on Aug. 12, which has led to deep distrust of government within this community."

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The rally was called to protest the planned removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee in a city park. Hundreds of marchers clashed with a group with opposite views, and police made little effort to intervene, the report says. Police said later that day, James Fields Jr, an accused white nationalist sympathizer, drove his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing a woman.

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The report noted that an intersection where the car attack began was guarded by a single person, a school resource officer, who was relieved of duty when she told a supervisor she feared for her safety. She was not replaced, and police made no other arrangements except for a single wooden sawhorse barrier "to prevent traffic from traveling across the Downtown Mall on 4th Street" where the fatality occurred, the report said.

It added that police were unprepared for the level of violence they encountered, and that "when violence was most prevalent, CPD commanders pulled officers back to a protected area of the park, where they remained for over an hour as people in the large crowd fought on Market Street."

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Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas was accused in the report of hindering the investigation process by deleting text messages, controlling the flow of information between police officers and investigators and his use of a personal email account to conduct official police business.

The report added that the Virginia State Police was not forthcoming with some information to the investigating team.

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