Friday, December 8, 2017

Charlottesville Revisited

A review was conducted of the recent events in Charlottesville: Independent Review of the 2017 Protest Events in Charlottesville, Virginia (PDF).  The review was led by Hunton & Williams, a law firm founded in Richmond but with offices now around the world.

The report examines three events in the city during 2017; I will focus only on the most recent one – the one that generated the most coverage, controversy and destruction.  The report is 220 pages; I will not go through all of it, but draw a few excerpts from the Executive Summary and other selected sections.

Jason Kessler obtained a permit to convene a rally at the Lee statue at which he planned to bring together a wide array of right-wing and white nationalist groups… Counter-protesters began mobilizing for this event and similarly recruited a range of left-wing groups to come to Charlottesville to confront the racist ideology of the Unite The Right groups.

You get the idea of the slant.

The scope of the event was not a surprise to city authorities:

City planners understood the scope and challenge presented by the August 12 event.  CPD [Charlottesville Police Department] commanders obtained accurate information about expected attendance at the Unite The Right rally, from online and human sources.  They knew the event would attract hundreds if not thousands of people on both sides.   

City leaders wanted to deny the legally obtained permit; they then wanted to move the march to a different park.  This now required the police to develop a new plan along with the prior plan just days before the event.  They decided to move the event despite being warned that this decision would be struck down in court.  It was.

Even apart from the complexity introduced by the possible move, police planning for August 12 was inadequate and disconnected.

Officials in other jurisdictions where previous protests were held were not contacted; CPD supervisors did not provide adequate training or information to officers; CPD planners waited too long to ask for assistance; they did not seek adequate legal advice.

CPD devised a flawed Operational Plan for the Unite The Right rally.

Constraints to access; adequate separation was not maintained between the groups; officers were not stationed along the appropriate routes, instead standing behind barricades away from the event.

CPD commanders did not sufficiently coordinate with the Virginia State Police in a unified command on or before August 12. 

Formal planning documents weren’t shared; radio communication between the two organizations was not possible due to incompatible systems; no joint training or joint briefing;

Once the unlawful assembly was declared, law enforcement efforts to disperse the crowd generated more violence as Alt-Right protesters were pushed back toward the counter-protesters with whom they had been in conflict.

Regarding the death of Heather Heyer:

Early on August 12, CPD had placed a school resource officer alone at the intersection of 4th Street NE and Market Street.  This officer feared for her safety as groups of angry Alt-Right protesters and counter-protesters streamed by her as they left Emancipation Park.  The officer called for assistance and was relieved of her post.  Unfortunately, CPD commanders did not replace her or make other arrangements to prevent traffic from traveling across the Downtown Mall on 4th Street.  A single  wooden  saw  horse  was  all  that  impeded  traffic  down  4th  Street  as  large  groups  of  people  continued  to  roam  the  streets. 

The Executive Summary concludes:

…the City of Charlottesville protected neither free expression nor public safety on August 12.  The City was unable to protect the right of free expression and facilitate the permit holder’s offensive speech.

Unable or unwilling? 

I skipped over the two earlier protests in the city, the previously most recent on July 8 – about one month prior to the events reviewed here.  Somehow that event went off without a hitch, but one month later…catastrophe.

Suffice it to say, the Executive Summary is completely unsatisfactory; a superficial analysis at best. 

I find a couple of additional sections worthy of comment:

IV. Resistance to Cooperation

Over the course of our review, we were unable to access certain information that we requested from various sources. 

Stonewalling, hiding behind potential legal proceedings, deleted text messages, personal email used (and denied), backdated documents intended to hide the lack of preparedness or other shortcomings, refusal to cooperate – all at the local and state government level.

The investigators received cooperation from about half of the Alt-Right groups, including Jason Kessler and various militia members.  They received some cooperation from the groups on the left, but notably not from Black Lives Matter, Solidarity Charlottesville, Standing Up for Racial Justice, and Congregate Charlottesville.

Much like the VSP [Virginia State Police] resistance outlined above, the lack of cooperation from various organizations and individuals engaged in counter-protest activities mirrored their approach to the protest events themselves.  (Emphasis added)

One of the recommendations is curious, but not surprising:

As explained above, current Virginia law prevents localities from restricting citizens’ right to possess firearms in any circumstance.  The General Assembly should change this rule and empower all municipalities to enact reasonable restrictions on the right to carry firearms at large protest events.

Despite the presence of countless firearms, only one shot was fired and no one was shot.  Is it too much to consider that the presence of firearms helped to limit the violence?


The authors of the report, in the face of all of the stonewalling especially from government officials, still conclude that they are confident in their findings. 

What strikes me is what is missing.  Nothing that I see that finds meaningful fault with anyone outside of or above the local police or state police.  Yet, as I recall, there was documented information about the pre-protest roles of local and state politicians (including the governor) – ordering officers to stand down, etc. 

Am I wrong in remembering this?


  1. >Am I wrong in remembering this?
    Observing reality correctly and not taking into account protected classes is a form of violence against POC.

    Jokes aside, I have been very disappointed, though not entirely surprised, by the libertarian reaction to the whole affair. It shows that, with the notable exception of John C. Whitehead, libertarians will do nothing to defend our rights and basically do not exist as political force. You, BM, have covered it and covered it fairly and for that you deserve credit but otherwise it’s been crickets.

    Most disturbing is the complete abandonment of Christopher Cantwell who, though a controversial figure for his vulgarity and abrasive personality, is a libertarian. Cantwell was finally released on bail the other day after being unjustly imprisoned since August. He used pepper spray in self defense. The only people arrested initially were UTR attendees despite dozens of them being badly pepper sprayed themselves. A negro who attacked a man with a maglite was let out on bail before Cantwell and only arrested after overwhelming pressure and evidence forced the system’s hand. This is a very clear cut case from a libertarian perspective and the silence can only be explained by two things.
    1. Ideological sympathy for Antifa
    2. Fear of publically defending the rights of “racists”

    Maybe now that Cantwell is out Tom Woods will interview him about the ordeal, that is if he is not to busy having black ancaps on to prove how not racist he is....

    They are your rights too guys, Weimerica is quickly becoming a place where if you are white and right you can’t expect justice.

    1. I agree. Libertarians should be condemning the Charlottesville situation far more vociferously (or at the very least placing the spotlight on the police and state authorities who were actively trying to incite violence through negligence). Cantwell is most certainly being targeted unfairly. There should have been more coverage on Cantwell’s treatment especially in relation to offenders on the other side.
      However, as harsh as it sounds, he made his bed when he decided to get involved with the alt-right. He had an article which clearly explained his motivations for getting involved with them. It all seemed sensible and I understood his reasons (except for the nonsense about law enforcement). But anyone with an iota of common sense (and more productive things to do with their time) should know that at best the alt-right is going to serve as a puppet and foil against the SJWs. Even Trump and Bannon are just using them. Both of these groups will be appropriately marginalized and subjugated when they have outlived their purpose. Why get yourself embroiled in all that? Movements like these tend to draw extreme fringe personalities who are usually poorly socialized and quite frankly, losers. These people end up either radicalizing the entire movement or smearing it with careless and irresponsible behaviour.
      Cantwell himself is a liability. His Vice interviews were disturbing. He looked either mentally troubled or high on meth. And some of the callous statements he made were face-palm inducing. If I had no knowledge of Cantwell before and already biased against the alt-right, Cantwell would have only served to reinforce these prejudices. Even Spencer is a better mascot.
      The final embarrassment was that video he made in tears. It was unmanly and weak! What did Cantwell think was going to happen in a firefight with the State? Everyone would realize how wrong they have been, hold hands, cry and then burst into song? If you are going to get embroiled in this business, you better be prepared to take some hits on the chin. And cry off-camera for goodness sake! He might as well have worn a sign that said “I am terrified and weak. Help me!!”
      Thanks to him, the SJWs have the “Crying Nazi” meme. Like I said, he is a liability. Even to the alt-right. Before all this, he has gotten into it with numerous groups from the Free State Project to faux libertarians like Reason. He has burnt a lot of bridges so some people will not be able to separate their negative emotions and draw more attention to his plight (see Alan Dershowitz as another example of people choosing negative emotions over principle). This is why I can understand if some libertarians won’t touch him. Especially if they have five kids and a wife to take care of (like Tom Woods).

      Then again, the poem from Martin Niemoller comes to mind:

      "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Socialist.

      Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

      Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Jew.

      Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."

  2. You could not be more right, BM. A serious (huh?) federal investigation into the orchestration and machinations behind this whole travesty/tragedy would be nice. Heads would roll, like to include one bouncing down the stairs of the governors mansion. If pigs had wings...

    1. I know expecting the Feds to do this is a pipe dream; we have come to the point where an honest investigative journalist is also not to be found - other than in the corners of the web.

  3. Jason Kessler, the organizer of the rally, gave interviews with various people that you can find online in which he discusses his interactions with police - interviews that he gave well before the rally.

    In the interviews he says that was assured by police of a plan to separate the alt-right rally goers from the counter-protestors (who openly stated that they were there to shut down the rally, which is not my understanding of how free speech works). The opposite happened and rally goers were forced through a gauntlet of counter protestors.

    It was a set up designed to deny lawful speech to those hated by the system. It's also worth mentioning that Heather Heyer was not hit by that car even though a widespread myth is growing around the incident. From what I can see, early media reports said that she was hit by the car, but now the reports are in a passive voice saying that she died of blunt force trauma (meaning, she fell down hard because she was morbidly obese, was possibly stomped on by fellow rioters, and died of a heart attack).

    1. "It's also worth mentioning that Heather Heyer was not hit by that car even though a widespread myth is growing around the incident."

      She was hit by the car that was rear ended by the driver of the car in question, you can see her body fly up on top of that car in this video at 2:37:

      While she was obese and had a host of other less than stellar qualities and political leanings, she was clearly killed by the direct action of the driver of the car that rear ended the other one and her estate should easily, and rightfully IMO, succeed in garnering a judgement against the perpetrator.

    2. Anonymous,

      That person was injured, and is fat, but isn't as fat as Heyer, and is also wearing different clothes. Meaning, it isn't Heyer, which you can see in the link below.

      Hopefully you will stick around enough to read this comment, because now you can see the power of propaganda. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the driver of the car planned any "direct action" (which is just a euphemism for political violence). It looks like a panicked reaction to people trying to pull him out of his car.

  4. I live in C-ville and paid keen attention to the event though didn't attend. Governor McAuliffe, strident defender of the 1st Amendment that he is, used his pulpit to discourage people from attending. The mayor of C-ville, who has a PHD in political science from Berkley, so you know what his politics are, helped fuel the fire of unrest by compressing the groups together while ordering police to simply be there but not arrest anyone. The powers that be were hoping for mayhem and murder, and thats what happened.

  5. One needs a permit to make something which would be illegal without it permitted. Where is the permit mentioned in the First Amendment right to assemble?

    1. Probably the whole Public Property thing that has caused a many of bad blood between groups, i.e. American West.

  6. Unpopular protestors may consider hiring their own security. Some with "professional authority presence" that can work alongside public police when it comes to planning. Working with the public police would be a good idea, as it may mitigate or prevent negative bias or purposefully harmful tactics (as demonstrated by C'ville PD).

    It would look bad on the local PD if a protest group can say "the local PD refused to work with the well established security agency we hired in good faith, in our desire to keep the peace."

    Worth the money spent, I'd say.

    Any libertarians wanna start a potentially lucrative security company?