University President Teresa Sullivan said in a community email Tuesday that prior to a white supremacist torchlit march through Grounds that turned violent, members of the white nationalist “alt-right” shared “contradictory and misleading details” with the University Police Department.
Last Friday, hundreds of white nationalists marched through Grounds, starting at Nameless Field, and then walking around campus to the statue of Thomas Jefferson north of the Rotunda, where they clashed with counter-protesters. This came the day before the “Unite the Right” rally and accompanying protests that resulted in a car plowing through a crowd of protesters, killing one woman and injuring 19 other people.
Sullivan said the white nationalist protesters marched a different route than their leaders had communicated to the UPD on Friday, when law enforcement became aware on social media of a potential protest at the Rotunda.
“There were contradictory and misleading details about events, locations, routes, and timing,” Sullivan said.
“The alt-right protesters did not do what they had said they were planning to do,” she added. “They did not follow the route they had indicated — along University Avenue to gather on the large open space on the north side plaza of the Rotunda — and instead traveled down McCormick Road and onto the Lawn.”
White nationalist alt-right torchlit march going through UVA grounds: "you will not replace us" pic.twitter.com/QS8ebI9XOW— Tim Dodson (@Tim_Dodson) August 12, 2017
One protester was arrested and charged with assault and disorderly conduct, and several minor injuries were sustained during the confrontation with counter-protesters. Despite the physical violence that occurred steps away from the Rotunda, students did not receive an official University alert warning of the safety concern. UPD declared the gathering an “unlawful assembly” and ordered the crowd to disperse.
“Given the short duration of the physical altercation and the law enforcement response to mitigate the threat, a university alert was not issued,” Sullivan said. “There was a compelling interest in not attracting more protesters and heightened violence.”
Despite the volatile environment of the torchlit rally, Sullivan said she was thankful the event did not become more violent.
“We are grateful for the efforts of University Police and our law enforcement partners during this very fluid and difficult event,” Sullivan said in the email. “I also want to express gratitude to members of the University and larger communities who came to the assistance of those injured on Friday.”