Hundreds gather at UVA in response to judge's decision regarding Unite the Right rally
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (WWBT) - Police have broken up a torch-lit rally at the University of Virginia on Friday. Alt-right members gathered around the statue of Thomas Jefferson chanting "white lives matter".
Marchers reportedly clashed with counter protesters at the Rotunda, torches were thrown, and blows were exchanged before police came to break it up.
The torch-lit rally comes after a federal judge granted a temporary injunction, allowing the Unite the Right rally to be held at Emancipation Park on Saturday. The judge made the decision around 8 p.m. on Friday.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on Thursday against changing the location of the rally to McIntire Park.
Charlottesville officials negotiated with the protest's organizer, Jason Kessler, to move it to McIntire Park due to "safety and logistical reasons."
The Rutherford Institute and ACLU said the move violates Kessler's First Amendment rights. The Unite the Right rally is being held to protest Charlottesville City Council's decision to remove the Robert E. Lee statue from Emancipation Park.
ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Gastañaga released a response to the federal judge's decision:
We are grateful that the court recognized that the First Amendment applies equally to everyone regardless of their views. We hope that the city will focus tomorrow on managing the expected crowds using de-escalation tactics and flexibility, and avoid the kind of over-militarized response that was mounted on July 8. We encourage everyone participating to commit to non-violence and peaceful protest. We will be there to observe and document police practices as we were on July 8 and at other rallies and protests across Virginia since January and before.
Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer issued statements regarding the federal judge's decision and the torch-lit rally at UVA:
University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan released a statement regarding the torch-lit rally:
As President of the University of Virginia, I am deeply saddened and disturbed by the hateful behavior displayed by torch-bearing protestors that marched on our Grounds this evening. I strongly condemn the unprovoked assault on members of our community, including University personnel who were attempting to maintain order.
Law enforcement continues to investigate the incident, and it is my hope that any individuals responsible for criminal acts are held accountable. The violence displayed on Grounds is intolerable and is entirely inconsistent with the University's values.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe says he would prefer that no one shows up at the Unite the Right rally at all.
"I want to urge my fellow Virginians who may consider joining either in support or opposition to the planned rally to make alternative plans," said McAuliffe.
He said he considered the viewpoint of those supporting the rally "abhorrent," but also says it's their right to peacefully express it.
"It is also the right of every American to deny those ideas more attention than they deserve," said McAuliffe.
Response teams from Richmond will be in Charlottesville this weekend, and the Virginia National Guard is on standby.
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