Charlottesville steps up security ahead of uncertain weekend

Charlottesville prepares for weekend of uncertainty
Barricades were constructed in an effort to prevent a repeat of last year's tragedy. (Source: NBC12)
Barricades were constructed in an effort to prevent a repeat of last year's tragedy. (Source: NBC12)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (WWBT) - Charlottesville is under the microscope as the world watches how it will respond to the potential for more demonstrators one year after last year's violent white nationalist rally.

Friday, a helicopter with military personnel could be seen taking to the sky as onlookers watched, waiting to see what this weekend will bring.

Barricades, road closures and prayers that the city won't see a repeat of what happened right here this time last year were part of the atmosphere Friday. In many ways, it's the calm before the unknown.

People who live in Charlottesville can't help but notice a city under transformation.

"Maybe better security this time to better protect the people," Perry Shifflett said.

Tanesha Hudson said it looks like the city is more prepared this year versus last year's Unite the Right rally that left Heather Heyer and two state police officers dead.

"We were missing all the cement barricades," Hudson said. "We didn't have none of those last year."

Hudson said she was there when white supremacists and counter-protesters clashed on the downtown mall one year ago this weekend. She watched as Heyer was struck when a car plowed into the crowd.

"I could see the young lady on the ground and them trying to operate on her and trying to get her to breathe and she couldn't breathe," Hudson said. "It was chaos. It was chaos and our city allowed it."

More from Charlottesville:

Charlottesville is taking no chances this time, pooling local, state and federal resources.

Businesses are closing up shop for the weekend, and people are being told to steer clear of downtown.

"We don't plan to be down here" Robin Shifflett said. "I realize people have a right to say what they want to say and people have a right to be opposed to it, but some things aren't worth listening to."

But for Hudson, it's about so much more.

"If we stay away, the people that live here, why would we allow outsiders in?" Hudson said. "This is our home. This is not their home. They don't belong here."

If white nationalists return, she will too.

"We cannot continue to embrace white supremacy on any level," Hudson said. "This is our home too. We belong here."

This year the city denied all permits for demonstrations, but that doesn't mean protesters won't show up. That's what has many people concerned - the uncertainty.

Copyright 2018 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.