Expecting the Impossible from Charlottesville PD
As soon as U.S. District Court Judge Glen E. Conrad issued his decision to allow racist rally protestors to use tiny Emancipation Park, in the heart of Charlottesville's business district, instead of moving the protest and counter-protest to the more rural, larger and more controllable McIntire Park, the Federal Court set the stage for Saturday's disaster.
While the City of Charlottesville argued for preparing for the worst case scenario, the Court preferred the rose-colored option. Clearly the court was wrong in it's judgement.
As noted in the City's federal filings, Charlottesville was completely unprepared for an insurrection of any size. And, as noted by Charles H. Ramsey in a Washington Post interview and who heads both the District of DC and Philadelphia police departments:
"The whole point is to have overwhelming force so that people don’t get the idea they can do these kinds of things [referring to the violence in Charlottesville] and get away with it. "
Did the Charlottesville PD Lose Control? By Peter Hermann, Joe Heim and Ellie Silverman - The Washington Post
And fine advice coming from a police chief with thousands of uniformed officers, mounted patrols, aerial assets, and deep public coffers (including the assets of the federal government, in the case of Washington, DC).
But Charlottesville, with it's 45,000 population and 141 police officers, is no Philadelphia or Washington, DC., which is exactly my point.
Even supplemented with some of the Commonwealth of Virginia's State Troopers, and some National Guard troops, the Charlottesville PD (141 officers), the UVA PD (50 officers),and Albemarle County Sheriff's Office (20 deputies and 40 volunteers) were severely undermanned for this kind of massive, violent demonstration.
No doubt the rally organizers counted on it.
The lack of overwhelming police presence is exactly what I think the White Supremacist instigators of this rally wanted: violent confrontation, blood, headlines.
Both citizens and protestors complained that the Charlottesville police couldn't or wouldn't protect them. However, crowd control, to say nothing of riot control, requires that every officer stick to the plan and hold his designated position. Whenever a fight breaks out and officers abandoned their posts guarding entry and exit points or weakening their line, the entire crowd control plan breaks down and the potential for chaos grows even more likely.
Nor, when the crowds begin to disperse and then re-condense on streets deep into the city grid, did the police have any chance of both completing their main objective, moving people out of the park, and being present to douse every flaring of tempers and flaling of fists.
Sure, the City of Charlottesville could have recruited officers from nearby cities to augment their ranks, but who is going to pay those officers for their time? Their travel? Their meals? Their motel rooms?
And don't forget a riot cops do not spring full form from the badge. Instead, troops have to train, train together, draw equipment, and walk through many scenarios. Properly policing the White Power riots would have been an prohibitively expensive proposition.
Surely the city of Charlottesville is not expected to make an extra tax levy against it's own citizens for a million or so dollars to pay to protect a demonstration they never invited, went to court to try to stop, and, in the end, did the best they could with what they had.
And Richard Spencer and his contingent of merry troublemakers played on the weaknesses of the Charlottesville PD by insisting no other place would do.
The Neo-Nazis got exactly what they wanted: dramatic footage and pictures, lots of confrontations, and mayhem that the neo-Nazis could not have accomplished in a major metropolitan area.
Charlottesville was victimized twice. Once by the White Supremacist and again by the Federal Courts.