- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Charlottesville city officials should never have authorized protesters to rally around a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee last summer, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Monday in one of his first interviews since leaving office.

Mr. McAuliffe told a Richmond radio station that Charlottesville erred by permitting the Aug. 12 “Unite the Right” demonstration in downtown’s Emancipation Park and that the city was warned the site was too small to safely accommodate both participants and counterprotesters.

“We clearly, at the state, knew exactly what was happening,” Mr. McAuliffe told NewsRadio WINA. “The FBI and the [Department of Homeland Security] had been briefing us for quite a while, and we passed all of it on to the city of Charlottesville.”

“We had advised the city of Charlottesville. I wish they had never given the permit. But the city has the right to do whatever they do,” said Mr. McAuliffe, a Democrat who served as Virginia’s governor from January 2014 to this past Saturday.

Billed as a rally held in support of a statue of Lee slated to be removed from Emancipation Park, “Unite the Right” descended into chaos when fighting broke out on the morning of the event between counterprotesters and participants including, Klansmen, neo-Nazis and white nationalists. Three people died in connection with the event, according to police, including two state troopers and a counterprotester.

Charlottesville tried days earlier to relocate the protest to a different park about a mile away, but the rally’s organizer successfully sued the city in Richmond federal court on the eve of the event.

“They never should have given the permit in Emancipation Park. That park is just too small,” Mr. McAuliffe said Monday. “The key to controlling a protest is to keep the two sides as far apart as you can.”

Additionally the former governor took aim at existing policy for preventing the state from taking control during the clashes. Mr. McAuliffe said he deployed nearly 1,000 state police to Charlottesville, but that current unified command laws required the Charlottesville Police Department to call the shots.

“I think we need to look at that. I don’t think that if were committing the most law enforcement, we the state, if we’re doing that, we should make the final decisions,” he said.

Jason Kessler, a white nationalist from Charlottesville who organized the event, told The Washington Times that he’s obtained over 1,000 pages of Virginia State Police documents, suggesting Mr. McAullife was ultimately responsible for authorities during the event.

“It’s indisputable VSP stood down and that he’s ultimately in charge of them. It’s indisputable that people got hurt because the City of Charlottesville sabotaged the rally response. But McAuliffe is trying to wash his hands by saying that he advised them to do something that was ruled unconstitutional by a federal court,” Mr. Kessler told The Times.

“The violence at the rally didn’t occur because it was illegal to move the rally but because both Charlottesville and State Police stood down and refused to implement industry standards for keeping hostile groups separate at rallies,” Mr. Kessler added.

An independent investigation commissioned by Charlottesville concluded last month that police’s failures in preparation, communication and command-and-control created a perfect storm that contributed to the chaos on Aug. 12.

“Although we do not agree with every aspect of the report’s findings, we do appreciate the efforts of the reviewers to talk to people from all walks of life about their experiences from this summer,” Charlottesville’s city manager said at the time.

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