RICHMOND, Va. -- The "Independent Review of the 2017 Protest Events in Charlottesville, Virginia" is a very unusual, fascinating, highly detailed and seemingly neutral look into the guts of one of our recent social explosions.
It's an indictment of the alt-right demonstrators, many of the counter-protesters and particularly the different police and other agencies that were supposed to keep them from colliding.
In the end, the 220-pagre report compiled by former U.S. Attorney Timothy Heaphy and the Hunton & Williams law firm is a textbook analysis of what NOT to do.
It includes a detailed analysis of the near-disastrous July 8 Klan rally in Charlottesville, highlighting problems with police communication, preparation and deployment, which, amazingly, repeated and even worsened one month later during the Unite the Right rally.
The report faults University of Virginia Police chief Michael Gibson for not mobilizing and stopping the alt-right torch march through the campus on August 11, despite having intel that it was going down. That march and resulting scuffle sharply ratcheted up tensions and passions for the next day's rally.
The threat and the haphazard preparations for August 12 were so severe, one Charlottesville police officer freshened up her will and wrote notes to her kids before reporting for duty that day.
The state police didn't know what the Charlottesville PD were doing, and vice-versa. Many of the city's front-line cops hadn't even tried on their riot gear. Instead of mobilizing the state's Emergency Management Team, which is designed for just this kind of event, the city force largely lone-wolfed the operation.
The mayor wasn't even allowed in the command center.
Again and again, police stood by as the violence escalated, unsure of when to arrest or intervene.
Charlottesville PD Chief Al Thomas reportedly said, let 'em fight, it'll make it easier to legally shut the whole thing down.
And when they finally decided to declare it an unlawful assembly because of the violence and injuries, the order was delayed so an undercover state police officer could get clear of the crowd, the report states.
And then, the way police cleared the chaotic Emancipation Park mashed the opposing sides together.
Yes, the report highlights what went right, such as treating victims, gathering intelligence and noting the fact that no one got shot despite many armed citizens.
In the end, I do not see how Charlottesville police Chief Al Thomas can keep his job after this report settles in. It appears to this layman it could provide grounds for lawsuits, overwhelming the usual protections offered to municipalities through sovereign immunity.
Don't take my word for it. Everyone should read it. It's well-written, almost like a novel.
There are many conclusions in it, but after reading it, the main one for me is how much worse this event could've very easily been.