CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WAVY) — This weekend will mark one year since a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.
Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday declared a state of emergency ahead of the anniversary. Extensive planning has taken place over the past couple of months to ensure safety.
Police will be controlling entry points to the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, in an effort to keep pedestrians and cars separated. People will only be able to enter and exit through two designated areas.
A car drove into a crowd of counterdemonstrators who were marching through a downtown street, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring many more.
An independent review by former U.S. Attorney Tim Heapy found law enforcement’s response to the August 2017 rally failed on multiple fronts — including not adequately communicating or coordinating in advance.
Mayor Nikuyah Walker said Friday, “We have a lot of work to do to regain trust and in that process we have to ensure that the devastation that happened last year doesn’t happen again and its almost impossible to ensure that so there’s a lot of fear and anxiety surrounding that.”
Multiple agencies and departments have come together over the last six months to prepare for the worst this year. There is no specific threat to Charlottesville for this weekend at this time — but intelligence will be monitored all weekend.
NOTE: An Aug. 8, 2018 news conference on preparations ahead of the one year anniversary. App/mobile users can watch the full briefing here.
A heavy police presence can be expected, as 1,000 law enforcement officers — 700 of which will be state troopers — will be in the city. The National Guard is on standby.
Local hospitals will have extra staff and resources on-hand, just in case.
“That presence is here as a support to our citizens as well as a deterrent to anyone who would want to come into the community and exercise their first amendment rights in a way that would violate someone else’s first amendment rights,” said Charlottesville police chief RaShall M. Brackney.
There is a very long list of items that are not allowed on the downtown mall– including knives, bats, and masks but handguns are allowed because of the Second Amendment.
Barricades will be put up later in the day Friday, and road closures will start in the evening.