“Why did you think you could walk in here and it would be business as usual?”
That was one of many harshly worded questions and insults lobbed at the Charlottesville Va. city council during a Monday night meeting that was beset by protesters angrily demanding an explanation for what they alleged was the city’s botched response to Aug. 11 “Unite the Right” rally. The rally, which revived a national conversation about the line between heritage and hate speech that continues to this day, devolved into violence as white nationalists, who had earlier marched through the University of Virginia's campus carrying torches, clashed with counterprotesters. The weekend ended in tragedy when one of the young men in attendance rammed his Dodge Charger into a crowd of counter protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman, and injuring dozens of others.
Protesters in Charlottesville, VA call for the resignation of city leaders during the first city council meeting since the deadly violence. pic.twitter.com/VnbzDeTqrg— ABC World News Now (@abcWNN) August 22, 2017
At the council meeting, protesters “shouted down the mayor, “took over city council chambers,” “broke out into furious chants of ‘shame’ and “gave four hours of impassioned testimony.” Their efforts resulted in a small victory: The city authorized a third-party review of the city’s planning and response to the rally, according to the New York Times.
Of course, there was no shortage of drama:
“’I’m outraged! said Tracy Saxon, 41. “I watched my people get beat and murdered. They let Nazis in here have freedom of speech, and they protect them? And we can’t have freedom of speech?”
At one point, two people stood on the dais and unfurled a banner with the words “Blood on your hands!” as council members and the mayor left the room. The residents refused to cede control of the room until the authorities promised to release the residents who had been taken away and let people have their say.”
As the chaos intensified, most of the council members and the mayor briefly left the meeting. The sole council member who stayed behind negotiated with the protesters and agreed to scrap the agenda to instead allow each person the opportunity to speak:
“Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy, the only African-American on the council, was the sole ember who remained. He negotiated with residents to restore order in exchange for scrapping the meeting’s regular agenda and giving each person one minute to speak.
It took about a half-hour for order to be restored, and the meeting stretched for several hours, as speaker after speaker spoke about their anguish over what the community had experienced. Several people wept and said they had been unable to sleep since witnessing violence against their neighbors. "‘I’m not the same person I was that day,’ said Paul Hurdle, who shook as he described the mayhem on Aug. 12”
At one point, three protesters were ejected by the police, drawing a chant of "let them go!" from the crowd.
People demand the release of ejected patrons. pic.twitter.com/0iLohwThwr— Frances Robles (@FrancesRobles) August 21, 2017
The councilmembers repeatedly pleaded with the protesters for calm, stressing the fact that it had tried to deny a permit for the “Unite the Right” rally, but had been overruled by a federal court. But for whatever reason, the protesters rejected the council’s version of events, which has been documented in the media.
“'We tried really hard,’ Mayor Mike Signor said. “A federal judge forced us to have that rally downtown.”
His account was met with jeers, and the shouting continued.
Mr. Signer took the brunt of the community’s ire, as many people demanded his resignation."
Once the chaos had subsided, the city council voted unanimously to drape statues of Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson in black. Maybe if protesters escalate their tactics, at the next meeting the council will simply decide to tear the statues down, resulting in a progression of even more escalating social discontent within a society that according to Ray Dalio has not been so polarized since 1937...