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Statements Regarding August 12 Rally
Statement by City Manager Maurice Jones
Good afternoon everyone, thank you for coming out today. Chief Thomas, Mayor Signer and I will just be making statements this afternoon but there will be plenty of information sent out to the media and the public during the course of the next couple of days.
On May 30, Mr. Jason Kessler applied for a permit to hold a demonstration in Emancipation Park on August 12. We have given considerable thought and attention to Mr. Kessler’s application. The size and nature of the demonstration have evolved considerably since the time of Mr. Kessler’s application. Based on information provided to me by law enforcement officials, the City has decided to approve Mr. Kessler’s application for a permit to hold a demonstration on the day and at the times requested, provided that he use McIntire Park, rather than Emancipation Park, for the demonstration.
There is no doubt that Mr. Kessler has a First Amendment right to hold a demonstration and to express his views. Nor is there any doubt that we, as a City, have an obligation to protect those rights, the people who seek to exercise them, and the broader community in which they do. We have determined that we cannot do all of these things effectively if the demonstration is held in Emancipation Park.
The City has serious concerns about ensuring the safety of the expected demonstrators in Emancipation Park, expected counter-demonstrators and the public, and to protect against public and private property damage, among other concerns. We believe that the proposal to move the demonstration to McIntire Park strikes an appropriate balance between Mr. Kessler’s right to organize a demonstration, on the one hand, and the City’s obligations to maintain public safety and protect public and private property, on the other.
Finally, I would remind everyone who plans to participate in these demonstrations or counter-demonstrations that you have a right to do so peacefully. You have no right to incite violence or to compromise public safety. I urge everyone to be safe and respectful. We are proud of this community, and we will protect it.
Statement by Police Chief Al Thomas
This City has invited Mr. Kessler to hold his demonstration in McIntire Park, where we can implement the security precautions necessary for an event of this size. I expect Mr. Kessler to cooperate with us by holding his event at the approved venue.
Having the demonstration at McIntire Park is safer because the park is large enough to accommodate the size of the anticipated crowd. It also avoids a situation whereby overflow crowds spill into the streets, as would likely occur at Emancipation Park. Law enforcement also will have the room needed to maneuver and direct crowds toward safety in case of a disturbance. Additionally, we can more effectively stage other public safety resources that would allow for immediate response if needed.
Let me be clear, having a demonstration of this size at McIntire Park will still require a significant deployment of law enforcement resources. So we will continue to assess what safety measures will have to be in place in light of the change of venue requirement.
Finally, I would remind everyone who plans to participate in these demonstrations or counter-demonstrations, that you have a right to do so peacefully. I urge groups on both sides to publicly commit to a nonviolent assembly; your commitment may influence the small minority that may seek to jeopardize public safety and will also serve to strengthen bonds throughout our community, reduce a growing cloud of fear, and emotionally disarm those who would delight in provoking others towards violent actions.
On behalf of every member of the Charlottesville Police Department, it is our greatest honor to serve our citizens. We feel our responsibility is not just law enforcement, but to the overall well-being of our community.
Statement by Mayor Mike Signer
We on City Council wholeheartedly support the City Manager's decision to move the "Unite the Right" event to McIntire Park because of the ballooning size of the event's attendance.
Government has no more central duty than protecting life and property. Given the sheer numbers predicted, the City Manager is right to conclude that this event is incompatible with the dense and urban location of Emancipation Park, right next to our Downtown Mall. However, at McIntire Park, the voices of all can be heard in a way that's consistent with our duty to the public.
We are thankful for the hard work of our Police Chief and our Police Department in preparing for this event. They are appreciated. Chief Thomas, you are appreciated. We are also grateful to the Governor and the Commonwealth of Virginia for their support.
Just as the "Unite the Right" participants have the right to air their views, so do those who want to protest against those views. Democracy can be noisy, and it can be messy. But by ensuring we protect both public safety and the Constitution through the City Manager's decision, I firmly believe that we will emerge from the weekend of August 12 a stronger community than ever.