Gov. McAuliffe wants Virginia to be national leader to ‘combat hatred and bigotry’

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe released a statement Monday afternoon regarding “the next steps” after a deadly weekend in Charlottesville.

McAuliffe said he convened an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the steps the commonwealth can take to begin the process of healing and confronting racism.

In the statement, McAuliffe said he would like Virginia to be the leader of the national conversation moving forward.

“The events of this weekend have only strengthened our resolve to combat hatred and bigotry, and I want Virginia to be a leader in the national conversation about how we move forward,” he wrote. “I have directed my team to impanel a commission with representatives from community organizations, faith leaders, and law enforcement to make actionable recommendations for executive and legislative solutions to advance our mission of reconciliation, unity, and public safety.”

He said he is has directed his team to conduct an “extensive review” that will include how the state issue rally permits, law enforcement preparation and response, and coordination at the local, state, and federal level.

This comes after 32-year-old Heather Heyer, of Charlottesville, was killed Saturday after a car rammed into a crowd of demonstrators protesting against white supremacists.

Heather Heyer

“A Dodge Challenger was traveling south on 4th Street at a high rate of speed when it rear-ended a sedan headed south on 4th Street. The impact of that crash pushed the sedan into the minivan in front of it. The minivan had slowed for a crowd of people crossing through the intersection,” a spokeswoman for the City of Charlottesville said. “The impact of the crash pushed the vehicles into the crowd of pedestrians. The Dodge Challenger fled the scene, but was located and stopped a short time later by Charlottesville Police.”

The driver of the Dodge Challenger, identified as James A. Fields Jr., 20, of Maumee, Ohio, was taken into custody and charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count of hit-and-run.

Governor McAuliffe called Fields a terrorist who weaponized a car.

That same day, two Virginia State Police troopers were killed in a fiery helicopter crash in Albermarle County. The helicopter was flying over the Charlottesville-area assisting with public safety at the “Unite the Right” rally.

The troopers have been identified as Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, from Midlothian, Va., and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates from New Kent.

McAuliffe’s full statement Monday read:

“Today, I convened an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the next steps we, as a commonwealth, must take in order to begin the arduous process of healing our community and confronting the racism that stubbornly remains in our nation. The events of this weekend have only strengthened our resolve to combat hatred and bigotry, and I want Virginia to be a leader in the national conversation about how we move forward. I have directed my team to impanel a commission with representatives from community organizations, faith leaders, and law enforcement to make actionable recommendations for executive and legislative solutions to advance our mission of reconciliation, unity, and public safety.

“Also, while we continue to grieve and support the families of those who lost their lives, we must learn from this tragic event to prevent a recurrence in our community or elsewhere.  In that spirit, I also directed my team to conduct an extensive review that will include how we issue rally permits, law enforcement preparation and response, and coordination at the local, state, and federal level. In addition, the federal government must focus on the threat of domestic terrorism especially when it comes from beyond state lines.

“Finally, I commend our Virginia State Police and National Guard personnel, who worked in support of the City of Charlottesville, for their tireless work this weekend under very challenging and volatile circumstances. Without their extensive preparations and measured actions, we would be facing a far more grave situation today.”