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Charlottesville City Council drafts plan to handle white nationalists

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The Charlottesville City Council released a statement Sunday after approximately 40 people associated with white nationalist philosophy held an unannounced torchlit rally in Emancipation Park

Former UVA student Richard Spencer led the group and promised to return yet again, after calling the brief rally, “Charlottesville 3.0.” Spencer was referencing a spring rally and then the August 12 rally which turned violent and left one civilian dead.

The statement said that the City’s police department is conferring with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office “to pursue any legal mechanisms necessary to bring about justice” for the community.

It is unconscionable that Mr. Spencer and his allies would return to our City to intimidate and spread fear, especially after their morally reprehensible invasion of the city on August 12th,” leaders wrote in the statement.

They said they have been consulting with outside sources, to develop changes to the code and procedures in an effort to address the events of the last four months.

City Council requested the creation of an internal task force between City departments, who would collectively develop proactive strategies “regarding the law, policing, regulations, communications, intelligence-gathering, and community outreach to vulnerable populations regarding white nationalist events in Charlottesville.”

The Office of the City Manager would guide the task force.

The City outlined the work they have been doing to help prevent future incidents like the ones experienced in recent months; including an independent review of the events of May 13, July 8 and August 12 that should be done by the end of November.

Other actions include designating a community group to address some of the issues raised by the public at council meetings. The group will weave these issues into its path to recovery vision and workplan for the city. The City has already provided updates to the Council and the public on a couple of those issues including affordable housing and equity issues such as workforce and business development.

The City is seeking additional authority to control the conditions under which a group or organization can hold a rally or demonstration. It is expected that the Council will receive a report on this issue at its regularly scheduled meeting on October 16.

City Council members will also go before the General Assembly to possibly seek sanctions against certain types of guns in certain public places and gatherings and laws granting localities the authority to remove their own memorials and monuments.

City Council is also exploring various steps to equip the police department with the capacity to sustain the monitoring and gathering of intelligence.

Statements from City Councilmembers are below:

“Charlottesville is one of the world’s great cities. Our progressive and welcoming policies and our belief in telling the truth about race in our history are all key to our success,” said Mayor Mike Signer. “The so-called ‘alt-right’ believes intimidation and intolerance will stop us from our work.  They could not be more wrong.  We must marshal all our resources, legal and otherwise, to protect our public and support our values of inclusion and diversity in the future.”

“As a city, it’s important that we stand up to and reject every notion of White Supremacy, the kind that is both overt and covert. As a city council, I firmly believe that my colleagues and I are committed to addressing these issues, and showing the community that we hear them,” said Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy. “I look forward to hearing from our Commonwealth’s Attorney about different ways in which we can, not only enforce the laws and ordinances that we currently have, but also possibly creating new parameters to stop hate groups from feeling so welcome here. I want to be clear – for all who believe that bigotry, racism, hate, and any other form oppression is welcome in our city, you are wrong. The Charlottesville that I love is not defined by White Supremacy. Our New Charlottesville stands together and for each other. Let’s continue to do so.”

“We know that Charlottesville has become a target for white nationalists, and we must be prepared to meet their messages of hate and violence in the strongest possible terms,” said City Council Kristin Szakos. “There must be consequences for behavior that is intended to terrorize our community, and we need all our departments working together to make sure our response is clear and well-prepared.  Charlottesville must demonstrate in word and deed that we reject the messages of white supremacy.”

“The only way to counter the irrational and despicable motives and methods of a Richard Spencer and his alt-right confederation is with a comprehensive, rational course of action that thwarts every white supremacist incursion, at every turn, and from every angle,” said City Councilor Kathy Galvin. “That is what City Council has tasked the city manager to do and we will keep the public informed, every step of the way.”

City Councilor Bob Fenwick will offer comments later this evening.

The City Manager’s Office will be providing regular updates to the Council and the public on these and other actions the City is taking to protect the public.