ACLU fires back at Gov. McAuliffe, claims police stood by waiting for violence in Charlottesville

Updated: Aug. 14, 2017 at 3:24 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (WWBT) - The ACLU is firing back at Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe after they say he blamed them for the violence that took place on Saturday in Charlottesville.

The allegations came when McAuliffe was speaking on National Public Radio's Morning Edition on Monday.

"The City of Charlottesville asked for that to be moved out of downtown Charlottesville to a park about a mile and a half away to a park with a lot of open fields. That was the place where it should have been," McAuliffe said. "We were unfortunately sued by the ACLU. The judge ruled against us. That rally should not have been in the middle of downtown."

The ACLU responded that they "are horrified by the violence that took place in Charlottesville...But let's be clear: our lawsuit challenging the city to act constitutionally did not cause violence nor did it in any way address the question whether demonstrators could carry sticks or other weapons at the events."

The ACLU says they are willing to work with McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark Herring "to ensure that public officials understand their rights and obligations under the law."

"We asked the city to adhere to the U.S. Constitution and ensure people's safety at the protest. It failed to do so. In our system, the city makes the rules and the courts enforce them. Our role is to ensure that the system works the same for everyone," said ACLU of Virginia's Executive Director Claire G. Gastanaga. "It is the responsibility of law enforcement to ensure safety of both protesters and counter-protesters. The policing on Saturday was not effective in preventing violence."

Gastanaga claims law enforcement "was standing passively by, seeming to be waiting for violence to take place, so that they would have grounds to declare an emergency, declare an 'unlawful assembly' and clear the area."

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