The brutal Neo-Nazi Charlottesville rally in August that killed one woman, injured dozens and rallied Black Lives Matter into formation was spurred, in large part, by a major failure of police, a new scathing independent review released Friday said.
Officers ignored fighting, retreated away from protesters and left the violence created by White supremacists unchecked for an extensive period of time, the 220-page indictment, based on former U.S. Attorney Tim Heaphy’s months-long investigation, said. An officer was removed before a car barreled through a crowd of peaceful counter-protesters and killed Heather Heyer, a 32-year woman, the report said, according to the Associated Press.
“This represents a failure of one of government’s core functions_the protection of fundamental rights,” the report said. “Law enforcement also failed to maintain order and protect citizens from harm, injury, and death. Charlottesville preserved neither of those principles on August 12, which has led to deep distrust of government within this community.”
When brawls erupted, officers watched them in the street for a nearly an hour before they intervened, the report said. Their passive and grossly negligent response was because they failed to “adequately communicate” or “coordinate in advance.”
State and city police also stumbled in coordinating between each other’s department, Heaphy’s team discovered after having interviewed 150 people and having reviewed half a million documents for the report. What the poor response amounted to was a complete failure “to protect public safety or the protesters’ right to express themselves.”
It is not surprising that cops’ reluctance amounted to gross errors in responsibility. Marches involving BLM activists have shed light on the dismissal of those who stand up against fascism and supremacy by law enforcement. Americans have long heard the poisonous lies that devalue the lives of people of color.
The police’s actions or perhaps, more appropriately, inaction, points to the belief that cops are rarely disciplined for missteps. A “strategy of disengagement,” like the one employed in Charlottesville by cops, can backfire and escalate violence, Miriam Krinsky, a former federal prosecutor who has worked on police reform efforts in Los Angeles, told ProPublica.
What steps are next for the Charlottesville police are unclear, but reform and punishment are already being talked about on social media.