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Report to state task force claims Charlottesville did not follow state recommendations for Aug. 12

Presentation identifies flaws which led to the violence of Aug. 12 and potential solutions to improve preparation for future events

The violent events of Aug. 11 and 12 prompted McAuliffe's task force.
The violent events of Aug. 11 and 12 prompted McAuliffe's task force.

The Task Force on Public Safety Preparedness and Response to Civil Unrest heard a report in Richmond Thursday presented by Jim W. Baker, director of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

The task force was established in August by Gov. Terry McAuliffe in wake of the events of Aug. 11 and 12 at the University and in Downtown Charlottesville. The goal of the task force is to review matters such as the issuance of permits relating to rallies and demonstrations, the state’s preparedness to incidents of civil unrest and its ability to cooperate with multiple agencies in responding to them. 

Thursday’s report was only a preliminary progress update of a larger after action review still being conducted by the IACP to examine the state’s response to the events of Aug. 12 and suggest areas of improvement and potential policy changes. 

The report identified both the flaws which led to the violence of Aug. 12 and potential solutions to better prepare for and prevent violence in the management of demonstrations in the future.

In terms of accountability for the violence on Aug. 12, the report explicitly lays blame upon the City of Charlottesville. It said the state was simply supporting public safety efforts put in place by the city which allegedly did not adhere to state recommendations. 

“Many recommendations communicated by the state to the City of Charlottesville were not accepted, including industry best practices for handling violent events,” according to the report. 

According to the report, investigative members of the IACP have not had access to or extensive communication with Charlottesville City officials, including police and fire personnel, during the conduct of the investigation thus far. 

Since the events of Aug. 12, city and state officials have been withholding some documents from each other during their respective investigations and the release of such information may affect the final outcome of the report. 

The report also stated that the Virginia Fusion Center concluded before Aug. 12 that there was a strong potential for violence and aggression surrounding the events of the “Unite the Right” rally, including “concerns of [a] mass casualty event, including [a] car attack.” 

It goes on to say that city and state officials, including the governor, were informed of these findings in advance of the events of Aug. 11 and 12. 

Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old local resident, was killed and at least 35 other people were injured when a car plowed through a group of counter-protesters near the Downtown Mall during counter-demonstrations being held Aug. 12 in response to the “Unite the Right” Rally. 

The report also cited a “new era of protests” involving weapons and “competing protesters intent on causing physical harm to others” as difficulties officials faced in managing the events of Aug. 12 and said the city failed to place any meaningful restrictions on the demonstrations.   

Formal recommendations and policy reform areas are expected to be presented to the governor’s task force Nov. 15, when the body is scheduled to meet again.

Eleanor Barto contributed reporting to this article.

Read this article translated in Chinese here.