High Noon in Charlottesville

Charlottesville’s $2 million emergency shutdown came to an anticlimactic ending Sunday as rain moved in over the city around 3:30 p.m.  In anticipation of possible violent demonstrations on the one-year anniversary of last summer’s Antifa riot, police closed off the downtown mall and both ends of Water Street with barricades and dump trucks, and only pedestrians were allowed access to the site where Heather Heyer was killed when James Fields allegedly drove his Dodge Charger into a crowd of Antifa protesters.  By 4 p.m., police were vacating the streets in a light rain and dump trucks were being driven away.

Earlier in the afternoon, the historic grounds at the University of Virginia (UVA) were all but empty, and the barricades had been removed from the Lawn after yesterday’s address by new UVA President James Ryan.  The Lawn had been cordoned off for a ticketed event in Old Cabell Hall titled “The Hope That Summons Us: A Morning of Reflection and Renewal.”

Around 2 p.m. this afternoon, a small prayer group assembled at the steps of the Rotunda in preparation for a march to the downtown site of Heather Heyer’s death.  Bishop Harry Jackson of the Hope Christian Church in Maryland spoke to the group, and relayed his thoughts about meeting with President Trump this week in the White House.  After meeting with Trump, Bishop Jackson was roundly criticized as “Uncle Tomming” by other black leaders.

Meanwhile, downtown, protesters were facing off with police at the intersection of Water Street and 4th street, which has been named Honorary Heather Heyer Way.  The crowd size was no more than a few dozen, but it was surrounded by dozens more photographers and spectators.  In the apparent absence of any political opponents, the protesters turned on police to vent their anger.  Protesters chanted “Quit your job!” at the police, and “Why are you in riot gear, ain’t no riot here!”

At one point, State Police appeared to reposition two troop carriers at one end of Water Street, and the protesters moved to form a human shield across the street, as if they expected the troop carriers to move against them to disperse the crowd.  The protest line remained in place until the rain began to fall.  Most of the crowd melted into the available doorways to take cover or left the scene.

Thus, the one-year anniversary of the Antifa riot in Charlottesville passed without any violent confrontations.  It was all theater and posturing and virtue signaling.  The university had its forum for the new president to introduce his bona fides as an anti-Nazi, the clergy had their time in the streets to face off with the police (over exactly what, who knows?), and the police had a chance to show that they were in charge after their disastrous stand-down last summer. All the parties seemed to get something from the drama, except the taxpayers, who now have to foot the bill.

James G. Robertson is a University of Virginia alumnus and Charlottesville resident.

Bishop Harry Jackson speaks to a prayer group at the steps of the Rotunda.

Prayer group leaves UVA grounds for the mile walk to the downtown protest site.

Police barricaded Water Street where protesters gathered at the site of Heather Heyer’s death.

Police in riot gear at the corner of Water Street and Honorary Heather Heyer Way.

Protester angry at the police.

Clergyman speaking to protesters.

Clergy stare down police troop carriers.

Clergywoman faces the police.

State police manning a troop carrier.

Clergy form a human shield across Water Street.

Protesters on Water Street.

Clergy and protesters face a state police troop carrier on Water Street.

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