As clashes between white nationalists and neo-liberals continue in Charlottesville, the Virginia National Guard is put on standby, ready to be deployed if violence and rioting escalate.
The National Guard will coordinate with state and local government to possibly step in during the rally in support of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in downtown Charlottesville. The Charlottesville Police Department will be taking the lead with security and safety precautions, which could see as many as 6,000 people crowd around the park.
In a statement, Governor Terry McAuliffe said, “I want to urge my fellow Virginians who may consider joining either in support or opposition to the planned rally to make alternative plans. Many of the individuals coming to Charlottesville tomorrow are doing so in order to express viewpoints many people, including me, find abhorrent. As long as that expression is peaceful, that is their right.”
Some National Guard units will be deployed outside of the city, ready to rush in if city police loose control over the situation.
On Friday night, marchers holding torches and chanting “White lives matter!” in front of a statue of university founder Thomas Jefferson were confronted by protesters, the Washington Post reported.
Violence in Charlottesville erupted in Saturday, when James Alex Fields, a white nationalist with a history of violence, plowed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of liberal protesters, killing one girl and injuring 19 people.
Charlottesville protests began last week, when city officials started preparations to remove a nearly century-old statue from the former Lee Park, now known as Emancipation Park. The monument was to be removed in April, but the monument has stayed put ever since pending further proceedings.
Jason Kessler, a local blogger, received a permit from Charlottesville last month to hold a “free speech rally in support of the Lee monument” at the site this weekend, but city officials on Monday ordered him to move the event to another park roughly a mile away, resulting in the filing of a First Amendment lawsuit in Richmond federal court Thursday evening. A federal judge granted an injunction against the city Friday night, effectively allowing Mr. Kessler’s “Unite the Right” rally to take place at Emancipation Park as initially planed.
City officials opposed holding the rally at Emancipation Park over safety concerns on account of the event likely drawing thousands of participants including demonstrators and counter-protesters which eventually led to a series of violent clashes and damage to the city.