As the Charlottesville city council met privately today to discuss “personnel matters,” Mayor Mike Singer threw the city’s police chief under the bus. Singer says when he asked, prior to the Aug. 12 protest, if there was anything he could do to help with the response plan, the police chief replied, “Stay out of my way.” Mayor Singer made the claim today in a lengthy Facebook post:
We were not given the security plan for August 12. During a briefing on the Thursday before August 12 with the Police Chief, the Fire Chief, and the City Manager, when I asked the Police Chief what I could do to be helpful during that day as Mayor, he answered, “Stay out of my way.” Despite repeated requests, I was not allowed into the City’s Command Center (run by City staff) and was instead asked to be in the Emergency Operations Center (where fire, rescue, and other stakeholders were monitoring the situation).
This is more reason why the conspiracy theory circulating among the fake news and alt-right networks that I somehow ordered a “stand down” among the police is even more crazy than it seems. I simply don’t have that legal authority. I couldn’t order a “stand down” if I wanted to…
This is why City Council deemed it necessary to hold an emergency closed session today with the City Manager to discuss personnel matters. The events on August 12 have raised serious questions about the City’s handling of security, communications, and governance.
Almost immediately after the events on August 12, the inaction of police was criticized by both the right and the left. A ProPublica report dated Aug. 12 stated, “State police and National Guardsmen watched passively for hours as self-proclaimed Nazis engaged in street battles with counter-protesters.” And here’s a CNN report from Aug. 14:
Both sides agree that one group didn’t do enough to prevent the violence as the crowds grew and tensions flared: the police.
Critics say both Charlottesville Police and Virginia State Police stood on the sidelines Saturday as skirmishes erupted between white nationalists and members of Antifa, a broad movement of left-leaning groups. The two groups confronted each other in Emancipation Park with shields and pepper spray.
As I noted here on Aug. 14th, the ACLU of Virginia also directly criticized the police response claiming criticism of how the rally was handled, including no effort to separate protesters and counter-protesters, was met with no response from authorities.
Slate reports that during the meeting today, the city council voted to establish an independent review board which will examine the city’s response. This may be a step toward firing the city manager (or someone else) but it appears no one was fired today. On the contrary, Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy was singing kumbaya. “We’re not looking to place blame on anyone,” he said.