Is Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe culpable in Charlottesville riot?
First things first: Police have arrested James Alex Fields and charged him with second-degree murder in the vehicular homicide of an Alt-Left protester in Charlottesville. Assuming that a forensic investigation confirms the published videos of the vehicular homicide, that Fields is shown to be the driver, and that he is fairly convicted in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt, he faces five to 40 years in prison, and he should get 40 years.
Saturday night, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into the circumstances of the crime. The FBI investigation faces a myriad of questions. One of the most important is whether or not there were accessories, accomplices, or co-conspirators.
However, there are also much larger civil rights questions to be answered. The questions begin at the mid-morning riot, when Alt-Left fascists attacked Unite The Right demonstrators, who had a legal permit to assemble at Emancipation Park.
The legal demonstration was scheduled to begin at noon, but the attacks began much earlier. By 11:35 am, a Tweet from Charlottesville City Hall had declared the legal rally an unlawful assembly, and Governor Terry McAuliffe had declared a state of emergency. The legal demonstrators were ordered to disperse.
And so the questions began. At a Sunday morning press conference, Governor McAuliffe defended the police and began a parade of excuses, claiming that nothing could have been done to prevent "car terrorism." But his comments do not even begin to answer the questions.
Why were the local police, state police, and National Guard unprepared prior to the start of the legal rally at noon? Why were they late to the rally in force? Why were the law enforcement agencies incapable of protecting the legal demonstrators? Why weren't the Alt Left fascists contained behind barricades? Why wasn't there a cordon of police to isolate the Alt Left fascists? Did the police know beforehand that the Alt Left fascists were preparing an attack? What did they know, and when did they know it? Why were Alt Left fascists allowed to discharge flame-throwing materials at the legal demonstrators? Why were there no arrests of the Alt Left fascists? What were the rules of engagement?
Why was the legal rally declared unlawful instead of the attack by the Alt Left fascists? Why didn't the police clear the streets of the violent Alt-Left fascists so that the legal assembly could proceed? When did Governor McAuliffe learn of the Alt Left fascist attack? Was McAuliffe in constant communication with the police? How long did he take to order the emergency? Was there a delay in order to let the Alt Left fascist attack crescendo?
Was the decision to declare an unlawful assembly due to a failure of the police to control the riot? Or could they have controlled the riot and nevertheless decided to declare an unlawful assembly anyway? How was the decision made? How was the chain of command coordinated between local and state police and the National Guard? Was there a failure in the chain of command that resulted in a failure to protect the legal demonstrators? Was the Alt Left fascist attack a set-up to provide an excuse to cancel the legal rally?
Most importantly, why were communist Alt Left fascists still marching in the streets at 1:30 pm? Did the communist Alt Left fascists have a permit to assemble? How did the communist Alt Left fascists gain entry to Water Street after the declaration of an emergency? Why didn't the helicopter circling the city alert the police to the communist Alt Left fascists on Water Street? Why didn't the police disperse them? Where were the police while the communist Alt Left fascists were marching? Was there a stand down order to allow them to march?
Was Governor McAuliffe aware of the communist Alt Left fascists marching in the afternoon? Was Governor McAuliffe in communication with the police during the communist Alt Left fascist march? What did he know, and when did he know it? Was there collusion between the police and Governor McAuliffe to let the communist Alt Left fascists march?
Did outside communist Alt Left agitators target Charlottesville to provoke a race riot? During the week leading up to the rally, did outside communist agitators manipulate gullible clergy and business leaders and the mayor and city council of Charlottesville into fomenting an increased climate of hate against Unite The Right?
And here is the crux of the matter. If the police had carried out Governor McAuliffe's declaration of an emergency and cleared the streets of all demonstrators, including the communist Alt Left fascists, there would have been no crowd of demonstrators at the intersection of Water and 4th Streets. And if there had been no crowd of demonstrators, there would have been no target for a vehicular homicide on Water Street.
Does Governor McAuliffe's failure to secure the streets make him morally or legally responsible? Any honest FBI civil rights probe must investigate the culpability of Governor McAuliffe and Charlottesville leaders in fomenting an increased climate of hate against Unite The Right.
Regardless of their political opinions about Unite The Right, the governor and local leaders had sworn duties to uphold the constitutional rights of Unite The Right. Police were late to the event. Civic leaders failed their duties, and then they covered their failure by declaring a state of emergency.
James G. Robertson is a biochemist, a resident of Charlottesville, and a University of Virginia alumnus.