Charlottesville leaders assure plan is in place for safety at possible anniversary rally

Charlottesville leaders assure plan is in place for safety at possible anniversary rally

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (WWBT) - There was a chorus of concerns in Charlottesville as city leaders met with the public at Mt. Zion 1st African Baptist Church Thursday night.

The topic was last year's Unite the Right Rally, and neighbors were sounding the alarm, demanding local authorities do more to keep them safe if white nationalists return next month.

One neighbor asked leaders "When Kessler shows up - not if - when he and his troops show up armed, are you going to do anything about it?"

Another community member voiced her concern to officials saying, "If I don't tell you that I know something is going on, it's because I don't have that trust in you."

Charlottesville's new police chief, Rashall Brackney, responded to concerns saying, "There were gaps in how we could have done things better."

Aug. 12 marks one year since the violent Unite the Right rally that resulted in multiple injuries and one death.

Brackney was not with the department at that time last year, but admits there were communication gaps, including how police should respond, who has authority to act and how to identify peaceful protesters from those looking to cause trouble.

"The expectations are, there will not be the type of violence that occurred in this community last year," said Brackney. "The officers are very clear of what their directions are."

Captain Craig Worsham of Virginia State Police also addressed the crowd saying, "Since August of last year, we have been working together collectively in collaboration for the anniversary of this August."

One no one is certain how it will unfold, even after a lawsuit - which was just settled in court  Thursday - requires rally organizer Jason Kessler  to do what he can to prevent a repeat of last year.

Kessler has promised to do just that, but that doesn't appease residents like Joy Johnson.

"They still haven't gotten it," said Johnson. "There is going to be a resistance, if you come back. The Charlottesville community doesn't want that kind of protest here."

Another neighbor asked officials during the meeting, "Are you just going to stand and watch as they attack us again?"

The local police departments, as well as state police, will be working under a unified command during the weekend of Aug. 12. They are committed to pool resources and manpower to keep everyone safe.

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