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A month after Charlottesville rally, governor’s task force holds first meeting

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RICHMOND, Va. – A month after the violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville that claimed the life of a counter protestor, The Task Force on Public Safety Preparedness and Response to Civil Unrest met for the first time to talk about the permit process that allowed the rally to take place.

Shortly after the violence in Charlottesville, Gov. McAuliffe issued an executive order temporarily halting assembly permits at the state-owned Lee monument in Richmond.

That was a major focus of the meeting, which aims to review and recommend changes to the state's permitting process in the aftermath of Charlottesville.

Dean Rodney Smolla, a constitutional law expert, addressed a host of free speech issues.

The professor said when it comes to issuing permits to groups, the state cannot in any way take into account the context of their message.

“You have to very precisely, in advance, lay out your criteria," Smolla said. "Lay out how you make your decision as to what will be permitted and what the rules of the game will be."

Despite the fact that no permit has been issued, an out-of-state Confederate heritage group still plans to assemble at the Lee monument Saturday.

Local police and officials are developing plans for any troubles that may arise.

Even though the gathering is technically unlawful, the chairman of the task force, secretary of public safety Brian Moran, addressed those who are choosing to come to Richmond anyway.

“We’re going to ensure the public safety of our citizens of Richmond and the Commonwealth," Moran said. “ I would ask those who [attend to] exercise good judgment."

The task force’s next meeting will take place Oct. 3 and a report on the group's recommendations is due by Dec. 1.

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