The Charlottesville Downtown Mall has reopened following restrictions on pedestrian access for the one-year anniversary weekend of the deadly Unite the Right rally, the City announced Sunday afternoon. The move came after tense confrontations between protesters and state police throughout the afternoon, as well as four arrests.
Early Sunday evening, police removed barriers from cross streets accessing the mall as well as security checkpoints required for entry.
Police clashed with anti-racist activists as they left the and began walking towards the Downtown Mall late Sunday morning. To the chagrin of many marchers — who expressed anti-racist and anti-police sentiments in their chants — police officers escorted them to the mall along a closed-off Preston Avenue.
The crowd was aiming to “hold space” for survivors of violence last August at the location of the car attack near Fourth Street, which is called Heather Heyer Way, and Water Street — but police refused their entrance. The officers donned riot gear and moved into a defensive formation, which angered the demonstrators.
Charlottesville resident Jesse Beard, 42, was arrested for obstruction of free passage after standing in front of police motorcycle units at 11:04 a.m., according to a press release from the Charlottesville-Albemarle-UVA Joint Information Center. Spotsylvania resident Martin Clevenger, 29, and Charlottesville resident Veronica Fitzhugh, 40, were both arrested for disorderly conduct after a verbal altercation near Market Street Park. Beard, Clevenger and Fitzhugh were all released on a summons.
Maine resident Chloe Lubin, 29, was arrested on charges of assault and battery, disorderly conduct, obstruction of justice and possession of a concealed weapon, the release said. Police witnessed Lubin spitting in the face of a demonstrator near Heather Heyer Way. After resisting arrest, the release said police discovered Lubin was concealing a metal baton. Lubin was released on an unsecured bond.
After a — who was killed in the car attack last August — protesters gathered on both sides of the police barricade and confronted police officers. Around 2 p.m. the standoff between protesters and police became physical.
Protesters remained in a tense confrontation with the police for over half an hour, occasionally shouting taunts and chants. Around 2:30 p.m., police officers removed the barrier from the end of Heather Heyer Way along Water Street for protesters to pass through. The majority of the crowd did not exit the area.
Shortly following, members of Congregate Charlottesville — a faith-based justice and advocacy group — formed lines to separate the rows of police officers from protesters who chose to the cross the street. A little after 3 p.m. police reinstalled the barricade at the end of Heather Heyer Way. The police did not widely explain to protesters that the barriers would be reinstalled and many remained outside of the security line on Water Street.
Less than 30 minutes later, City Councilor Wes Bellamy announced the reopening after discussing with officers on the scene. In an interview with The Cavalier Daily, Bellamy said the police presence at the intersection could be excessive.