Curry Prof. Walt Heinecke applied for two permits from the Charlottesville Department of Parks and Recreation Thursday, asking to reserve McGuffey and Justice Parks to protest the Unite the Right rally Aug. 12.
Right-wing blogger Jason Kessler, along with other alt-right leaders, will hold a Unite the Right rally in Emancipation Park more than a month after the Ku Klux Klan protested Robert E. Lee statue removal at their July 8 rally at Justice Park.
Heinecke is now awaiting approval or denial of his permits by the department, which must update the applicant with denial or questions within 10 days, otherwise the permits are granted.
“My purpose in doing it is to provide a place for demonstrators to freely assemble, and the second purpose I have is to promote public safety and security,” Heinecke said. “I was a little disappointed with the Klan rally when the police declared it an unlawful assembly immediately after the Klan left. I didn’t know if that was appropriate.”
According to Charlottesville Standard Operating Procedure for non-City-events, the applications must be submitted in writing and received at least five business days before the demonstration, with a few exceptions. Applications for demonstrations taking place “wholly within a park” must be submitted at least 10 days in advance.
“It is unlikely that they will be denied,” Charlottesville Director of Communications Miriam Dickler said. “Those decisions aren’t made on content.”
Dickler said, however, that the City may go back to Heinecke with questions before the request is approved or denied.
“With any application for a special event or a demonstration, part of the review process may be asking questions,” Dickler said. “They may go back to the applicant with questions for clarity.”
A permit may be denied for several reasons, such as if the proposed event presents a danger to public safety or health, if it cannot be accommodated in the requested area or if it fails to meet the conditions and limitations listed.
All requests for demonstration permits are deemed granted unless denied within ten business days after submission of a permit application or within 48 hours before the demonstration (whichever is first) as long as it meets all limitations and restrictions.
Heinecke said that when he submitted his permits, he was told that now, all permits would go to the police department for approval.
“When I went to the front counter to turn it in, I was told that those requests are all being looked at by a lieutenant in the police department,” Heinecke said. “I don’t think that’s normal procedure for when you go get a [permit].”
Heinecke said he thinks the alleged change is related to white supremacy groups’ interest in blocking statue removal.
The City did not respond to a request for a comment on this matter as of press time.
Heinecke said he did not believe any applications for counter-demonstration permits were submitted before the KKK rally.
“We saw what happened after the Klan left, and the police moved quickly to declare that an unlawful assembly,” Heinecke said. “I learned something being at that protest and that rally about the police discretion to declare any group of three or more an unlawful assembly in terms of shutting it down.”
Heinecke said he hopes the police de-escalate action against protesters. At the last rally, 22 people were arrested.
“I think that part of the problem that occurred was that police were over-militarized,” Heinecke said. “I think that that kind of police presence leads to more problems and creates a situation of tension. I thought that maybe the next time around they could do a better job of thinking about the appearance of militarization that’s going on here.”
Heinecke also wrote City Council requesting they revoke the permit for the Unite the Right rally.
“I wrote them an email and urged them to either cancel the permit based on safety and cost or if not, I thought that they should move it to a more secure location,” Heinecke said. “Barring that, I urged them to get with the police department and ensure that there was a space for lawful assembly was provided to protesters so we didn’t repeat the mistakes of after the Klan rally.”
The Unite the Right rally is planned to take place Aug. 12 at Emancipation Park.