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Report: Charlottesville police response was a "failure" during protest

Steve Helber / AP

Local law enforcement in Charlottesville, Virginia, was "woefully inadequate" and "didn't have adequate" measures in place to protect people who participated in the white nationalist rally last summer, according to an independent review by a former federal prosecutor released on Friday.

Why it matters: Not only did the violent protest result in the death of one woman (who was there as a counter-protestor), but Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe defended the law enforcement response saying that they had done "great work" in a "very delicate situation."

Key findings of report by Timothy J. Heaphy, a former United States attorney:

  • Charlottesville Police Department officers didn't have adequate protective gears to keep protesters and counter-protesters separate.
  • Several CPD lieutenants said they were uncomfortable directing officers from another agency given the lack of introduction, training and prior preparation.
  • p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px 'Helvetica Neue'; color: #454545} Law enforcement allowed white nationalists and counter-protesters to arm themselves with deadly weapons.
  • "When violence was most prevalent, CPD commanders pulled officers back to a protected area of the park, where they remained for over an hour as people in the large crowd fought on Market Street," the report said.
  • p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px 'Helvetica Neue'; color: #454545} City officials sent conflicting messages about the protest, with some, including the mayor, consistently discouraging attendance. Others said it was important for residents to visibly voice their opposition to the white supremacist groups.
  • Their response to the Friday night torchlight event was woefully inadequate, even for a small campus police department.
  • The University of Virginia police department was "woefully inadequate, even for a small campus police department" during the Friday night rally where white nationalists were wielding torches and chanting "Jews will not replace us."

Key quote: "This represents a failure of one of government's core functions—the protection of fundamental rights. Law enforcement also failed to maintain order and protect citizens from harm, injury, and death. Charlottesville preserved neither of those principles on August 12, which has led to deep distrust of government within this community."