After violence in Charlottesville, Sullivan says Block Party should be cancelled

Risky behavior, stress on first responders among reasons cited for ending unsanctioned Wertland Street event

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The Wertland Block Party is not sanctioned by the University. 

Lauren Hornsby | Cavalier Daily

Following a violent weekend in Charlottesville, University President Teresa Sullivan is calling on students to end the annual Wertland Street Block Party.

“In consideration of my assurance that your safety and well-being remain our utmost concern, and given the immeasurable emotion and stress that first responders and community members experienced this past weekend, I am calling on our student community to put an end to the annual Wertland Block Party,” Sullivan said in an email to the University community Tuesday.

Block Party is an annual move-in weekend event where students often consume large amounts of alcohol. Last year, an estimated 4,000 people attended Block Party, a decrease from 6,000 in 2015. Nineteen summons were issued in 2016 for offenses such as underage possession and open container.

The disorderly event was also discussed in a Washington Post article last July that detailed an account of an alleged sexual assault at Block Party in 2015.

Block Party does not take place on University property, Sullivan noted, “and thus the University cannot act directly to stop it.” Students would have to take it upon themselves to bring an end to the party.

“This event threatens the general health of participants,” Sullivan said. “It also places a tremendous strain on local law enforcement and health officials, all of whom have only begun recovering from the violence of this past weekend.”

The “Unite the Right” rally drew hundreds of white nationalists and counter-protesters to Charlottesville Saturday, resulting in chaos and violence downtown.

A 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, was killed after a car plowed through a crowd at the corner of Fourth Street and Water Street. Nineteen other people were also injured, including Tadrint and Micah Washington, who filed a $3 million lawsuit over the crash on Tuesday.

James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old man from Maumee, Ohio, has been charged with second-degree murder. He also faces three counts of malicious wounding and one count of hit and run.

A Virginia State Police helicopter also crashed on Saturday near Birdwood Golf Course, killing pilot Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates. The helicopter had been assisting law enforcement in Charlottesville and officials do not believe foul play was involved.

“In the days ahead, you will be hearing more about planned activities for bringing our community members together to heal and support one another,” Sullivan said. “I hope that members of the University community will participate in these activities and turn our collective focus toward the future.”

The University will offer alternative events the night of Block Party, Aug. 19, including the Welcome Week concert with Future and Lil Yachty. IM-Rec will be hosting After Hours at the AFC from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Housing and Residence Life will be putting on programs in all first-year dorms.

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