According to a report published by ProPublica, police allegedly stood by in Charlottesville, Virginia, at the Unite The Right rally as violence occurred. Thousands of far-right white supremacists and nationalists gathered at the procession, leading to scuffles between marchers and anti-racist counter-protesters, and ultimately, fatal violence when a car driver drove his vehicle right into a group of progressive activists. According to authorities, one woman died due to the crash. Two state officers also lost their lives in a helicopter crash near Charlottesville that was said to be related.
In the ProPublica report, A.C. Thompson — a journalist who covers hate crime in the United States — claimed that the Virginia state police troopers, along with Charlottesville police officers, "did nothing" as physical altercations grew more and more violent between white nationalists and anti-racist activists. In one instance, Thompson claimed that a woman was "hurled to the pavement and blood from her bruised head was instantly visible" but apparently no help was offered by law enforcement officers present at the scene.
Thompson is not the only one to criticize Virginian police officers; renowned scholar and writer Cornel West also condemned the police for their apparent inactivity. According to West, the police apparently failed to hold violence instigators accountable. "If it hadn’t been for the anti-fascists protecting us from the neo-fascists," West told The Washington Post, "we would have been crushed like cockroaches."
After being given reports of criticism against the police, Charlottesville's vice mayor Wes Bellamy defended the police and said, "I’m not in the business of throwing our police department under the bus, because they’re doing the best job they can. I don’t think the police officers were just twiddling their thumbs." In a similar instance, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said that the day could have been "much worse."
According to Virginia's police authorities, at least 35 people were hurt. The authorities claimed that the primary source of injuries was violent fights between white supremacists and counter-protesters.
I personally saw Ferguson police use crushing force against protesters for much less than what the Nazis in Charlottesville are doing today.— caffe latte person (@AdamSerwer) August 12, 2017
In spite of receiving several queries from press members, McAuliffe refused to answer questions on the police's method of crowd management and dispersal for the United The Right rally.
However, according to The Washington Post, Lt. Joseph Hatter of the Charlottesville police agreed that there had been apparent failure to contain violence on part of the law enforcement agencies. He noted that the initial plan was to keep both white supremacist marchers and anti-racist protesters apart.
"It didn’t work, did it? I think there was a plan to have them separated. They didn’t want to be separated," Hatter said.