Saturday’s “Unite the Right” rally is expected to disrupt both vehicular and pedestrian traffic starting Friday evening. In a press briefing Thursday afternoon, Charlottesville Police Department Capt. Victor Mitchell detailed the areas in downtown Charlottesville that will be affected.
Mitchell said the CPD anticipates a crowd of anywhere from 2,000 to 6,000 people, including both protesters and counter-protesters.
Parts of East Market Street, 1st Street, 2nd Street, 3rd Street, 4th Street and West Jefferson Street will be closed to vehicles beginning Saturday morning.
The 200 blocks on both 1st Street and 2nd Street which will be closed to both vehicles and pedestrians beginning Friday evening. The sidewalk on the 100 block of East Jefferson Street will also be closed Friday evening.
No road closures are expected near McIntire Park, except for the entrance to the park from the Route 250 Bypass near the fire station. Event organizer and pro-white activist Jason Kessler applied to hold the rally at Emancipation Park, but the city said earlier this week that it would only grant a permit for the rally if it was held in McIntire Park, which the city said would be larger and safer.
Kessler has rejected the city’s decision and said the rally will remain in Emancipation Park. The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and The Rutherford Institute expressed concerns that the city’s actions violated Kessler’s First Amendment rights and filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city in federal court Thursday.
“We are prepared for multiple possibilities and Charlottesville Police Department, with assistance from the Virginia State Police, has plans in place to protect citizens in both parks,” Mitchell said. “Individuals have a constitutional right to gather and peacefully protest. The police will be there to ensure this takes place.”
Mitchell also said that the Albemarle County Police Department and University Police Department will respond to emergency calls made in the city Saturday.
“We also want to point out that we still have a city to protect,” Mitchell said. “I want to assure the citizens of this city — if you call 911 for an emergency — a police officer will respond.”