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Charlottesville Police Chief Steps Down After Handling of Rallies Is Criticized

Published: December 19, 2017
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Source: nytimes

The chief of police in Charlottesville, Va., stepped down on Monday, two weeks after the release of a sharply critical report about the department’s failure to contain violence this summer between white supremacists and counterprotesters, which left one demonstrator dead and dozens injured.

The report found that as bloody fighting broke out, the police did not immediately intervene but remained behind barricades, and that they had no training in handling civil unrest. The city’s plan to control the streets was “much like it is on Saturday afternoon for a football game,” despite warnings of a serious threat, concluded the report, which was overseen by a former United States attorney.

Chief Al S. Thomas Jr., who has denied some of the accusations in the report, said on Monday that he was retiring. “Nothing in my career has brought me more pride than serving as the police chief for the City of Charlottesville,” he said in a statement released by the city.

The violence in Charlottesville, over two days in August, sparked intense soul-searching nationally about emboldened white nationalism, which was heightened when President Trump did not unequivocally condemn the torch-carrying marchers who chanted neo-Nazi slogans.

Home of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville was targeted by foot soldiers of the so-called alt-right because it is a liberal bastion that has proposed removing Confederate monuments from city parks.

According to the report released Dec. 1 by Timothy J. Heaphy, the former United States attorney hired by the city to investigate the violence, the city police failed to reach out to other cities where white nationalists and counterdemonstrators had clashed; Charlottesville police commanders did not give adequate training to officers; and in the peak period of violence, officers were pulled back to a safe zone while a large crowd fought on Market Street downtown.

It was at that moment that a self-described neo-Nazi plowed his car into the crowd, according to the authorities, killing a counterprotester, Heather D. Heyer, and injuring 35 others. On Thursday the driver, James Alex Fields Jr., 20, was charged with first-degree murder in a Charlottesville court.

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Related:

CONFIRMED: POLICE TOLD TO STAND DOWN IN CHARLOTTESVILLE—DID NOTHING AS WAR BROKE OUT

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