U.Va. imposes greater security measures ahead of student-led demonstration

University President Jim Ryan announced procedures for Saturday’s protest in a community-wide email Friday afternoon

Jefferson Statue

U.Va. Students United is planning to gather at the North Plaza of the Rotunda Saturday night.

Lauren Hornsby | The Cavalier Daily

Metal detectors and crowd size limits will be among the security measures imposed Saturday night on a planned demonstration by student activism group U.Va. Students United at the North Plaza of the Rotunda, University President Jim Ryan announced in a community email Friday afternoon.

Soon after the announcement, Students United wrote on Twitter that they did not ask for the additional protection, adding they believe “UVA is setting us up to get abused by cops.”

In an email to The Cavalier Daily, Deputy University Spokesperson Wes Hester said the University has been “working closely with UVA Students United to ensure the safety and security of the event.” 

“The purpose of the precautions is to keep people safe, which remains our top priority, and to allow the event to go forward with minimal risk of disruption,” Hester said. “We also recognize the importance of helping people gather safely to engage in reflection, conversations, demonstrations, and in protest.”

Students United member and third-year College student Caroline Mubiru wrote in an email to The Cavalier Daily Friday that additional law enforcement officers will not help students — especially students in marginalized communities — feel safe. 

“We have communicated to administrators how police only make us feel less safe on so many occasions that at this point it’s obvious the goal of this show of ‘force’ is not to make students feel safe,” Mubiru wrote. “If that was the objective, then the first step would be to listen to students and community members and place no trespassing orders for all nazis and white supremacists. Until then and as always, we keep us safe.”

Students United member Sophie Schectman was participating in a press conference hosted by a number of anti-racism organizations in Charlottesville Friday afternoon when Ryan issued his announcement. 

“U.Va. is trying to shut us down and is increasing the amount of police and militarization in that space,” Schectman said.

The plaza was the site of a violent white supremacist rally on Aug. 11, 2017. Exactly a year later, U.Va. Students United — with many members who protested against the torch-carrying white supremacists at the base of the Thomas Jefferson statue — is hosting its demonstration against racism, entitled “VA Students Act Against White Supremacy.”

Ryan’s email said there would be restrictions on the crowd size for Saturday’s event, but it’s currently unclear how many people will be allowed onto the North Plaza. Ryan said the number would be “based on the recommendation of the fire marshal and the size of the plaza itself.” 

At the protest, the University will also enforce a “clear bag” policy, Ryan added.

According to Hester, the University’s policy regulating the free speech of individuals unaffiliated with the University will remain in effect, however, security measures specific to this weekend supersede “other policies regarding use of University property to the extent such policies may be inconsistent with these protocols.”

Hester added “there are currently no plans to check for affiliated status” at either the University’s “Hope that Summons Us” event Saturday morning or the Students United rally Saturday night.

In his email, Ryan also wrote that the Lawn will be closed from 6 p.m. today until noon on Aug. 12, expanding on a slew of lockdown measures in preparation for the anniversary of the deadly Unite the Right rallies last August — including additional police presence, road closures and declared states of emergency for the Commonwealth of Virginia and the City of Charlottesville.

Previously, the Lawn was set to be restricted Saturday, Aug. 11 from 6 a.m. to noon for a free ticketed event. Only Lawn residents and attendees would have had access to the space. Certain areas near the Thomas Jefferson statue were set to be restricted throughout the weekend with increased security until 7 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 13.

Cameras were also seen being installed on Grounds Friday, specifically along Newcomb Road. According to Hester, the cameras will be “monitored by members of the regional team working to ensure safety throughout the weekend.”

“My hope is that these precautions will prove unnecessary,” Ryan’s email reads. “But we are taking them in order to give students and other community members the best chance to gather peacefully without having to worry about their own safety.”

This article was updated with additional comments from the University and UVA Students United.  

related stories