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McAuliffe signs two executive orders in response to Charlottesville violence

The orders create two commissions to examine the management of and response to white supremacist events

<p>Gov. Terry McAuliffe</p>

Gov. Terry McAuliffe

Gov. Terry McAuliffe responded last week to the recent violence in Charlottesville with the creation of two investigative bodies — the Task Force on Public Safety Preparedness and Response to Civil Unrest and the Commonwealth Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

The task force will be chaired by Brian Moran, Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security. McAuliffe has yet to name an individual to lead the commission.

The violence occurred at the “Unite the Right” rally Aug. 12 and a white nationalist march on Grounds the night before. Events turned deadly Aug. 12 when a car plowed into a group of pedestrians, injuring at least 35 people and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. A separate deadly incident occurred when a Virginia State Police helicopter crashed in Albemarle County, killing Trooper-Pilot  Berke M.M. Bates and Lt. H. Jay Cullen. The helicopter had been assisting law enforcement efforts in Charlottesville that day. 

Members of the task force will include representatives from the Virginia State Police, local law enforcement agencies and the Office of the Attorney General.

According to the press release, the goal of the task force will be “evaluating the circumstances that led to the violent white supremacist events in Charlottesville on August 11 and 12 and assessing the Commonwealth’s procedures for preparing and responding to events where civil unrest could occur.”

On the importance of the task force, McAuliffe emphasized the need to prevent such violence from taking place in Virginia and the ability of state officials to exercise power in addressing matters of public safety. 

Furthermore, McAuliffe directed the task force to prioritize a number of policy reforms in its review of the events leading to the violence in Charlottesville, including regulations and procedures concerning rally permits and the state’s ability to respond to civil unrest and coordinate with multiple government agencies in its response. 

According to the press release, the diversity commission will be tasked with “assessing how hated and discrimination against racial minorities, religious groups and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals led to those tragic events.” 

“It is important for the people of Virginia to have an honest discussion about what we can do to combat hatred and violence” McAuliffe said of the commission.

McAuliffe cited the importance of white supremacist origins to justify the creation of the commission.

“...We must evaluate the circumstances that led to them and identify the steps that we can take together to stamp out hatred and violence,” the press release said. 

McAuliffe has also specifically tasked the commission with providing resources to local governments in an effort to address civil rights concerns in their own communities.

“Resources will include guidance for the renaming of schools, highways and other public spaces … [and] guidance on the relocation and replacement of monuments,” the press release said. 

The Executive Orders will remain in effect for one year unless suspended by a directive of the incoming administration.