CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (Reuters) – Hundreds of students and left activists took on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, as a rally to mark the anniversary of last year’s White Nationalist Assembly, largely turned to an anti-police protest.
With cousins like “Cops and Clan go hand in hand”, the critics of both the police and the University of Virginia stressed the resentment still one year after faked Nazis marched through campus and shouted anti-Semitic messages and opposing protestors.
Several students said they were angry that the police response was much bigger this year compared to last year, when people wearing the tiki torches, the white nationalist rally went uncontrollably for the most part.
On an occasion on Saturday, dozens of officers in riot equipment formed a line close to the rally, which led to many protesters rushing over cry: “Why are you in riot equipment? We see no uprisings here.”
The standoff ended without any conflicts, as the organizers invited the audience to move and start marching off campus. The police, who seemed to avoid a confrontation, cycled bikes before the march to stop the traffic.
The newly-installed president of the University of Virginia, James Ryan, apologized for the inactivity of the school last year when he spoke at an event to commemorate the anniversary.
Saturday’s March covered a day of hope, sorrow, anger and memorial in Charlottesville, a year after the Unite the Right rally raided ragged street violence to the scenic college resort.
The organizer of last year’s rally, local blogger Jason Kessler, has planned a Sunday sequel to Washington after being denied permission in Charlottesville.
With hundreds of police who maintain a tough security environment around a 1
5-minute downtown, Charlottesville’s normally busy business district was relatively quiet on Saturday. The buzz of a police helicopter overhead was a constant all day.
Protesters march at the University of Virginia, before a year anniversary of 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, August 11, 2018. REUTERS / Jim Urquhart
The massive police response was not welcomed by everyone, including some residents and entrepreneurs who complained that the restrictions were an overreaction.
However, the outcome was a day that was largely unsuccessful. The authorities arrested three men for minor crimes, including a 64-year-old disabled man who apparently challenged the ban on certain items in the secured area.
Man John Miska, who had a gun in a shoulder holster, visited a pharmacy and bought razors that qualified as smuggling under the city’s emergency declaration. However, the gun was not prohibited, based on state law.
When he refused an officer’s request to take the razors in his car, he was arrested for disorderly behavior.
“This is the loss of our constitutional rights here in Charlottesville,” he cried, as officer led him in plastic handbags.
A group of anti-fascist protesters, sometimes known as “Antifa,” marched in the afternoon with signs such as “Good Night White Pride”. They stopped paying their respect at the corner where a local woman, Heather Heyer, was killed when an Ohio man drove his car to a lot of opponent after last year’s rally.
While some shops closed for the weekend, many merchants were still open in a solidarity exhibition.
“It’s my city, and I’m not afraid,” said Karen Walker, whose flower market Hedge was open on Saturday even though she did not expect much business. Outside her front door was a bucket of freshly cut flowers available for passersby to take for free.
Many local residents also made a point to come to the center to mark the anniversary. Kathe Falzer, 67, switched flights to California so she could spend Saturday in town.
“I felt the need to be here and support business,” Falzer said when she had lunch at a dinner on Main Street.
Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing Daniel Wallis and Alistair Bell
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