Report: Officer safety put ahead of public safety at rally

Law enforcement failed to adequately plan for or respond to a violent white nationalist rally this summer in Virginia, leading to “deep distrust of government” in the Charlottesville community, an independent review released Friday found.

Former U.S. Attorney Tim Heaphy’s monthslong investigation found a lack of coordination between state and city police and a passive response by officials to the chaos. The report also found that police removed an officer from an area where a car plowed into counterprotesters and killed a woman and injured 19 others, leaving only a small sawhorse in place at the time.

“Supervisors devised a poorly conceived plan that under-equipped and misaligned hundreds of officers. Execution of that plan elevated officer safety over public safety,” the report found.

SLIDESHOW: White nationalists and counterprotesters clash in Charlottesville

The City of Charlottesville also did not protect free expression on Aug. 12, the report said.

“This represents a failure of one of government’s core functions — the protection of fundamental rights,” it said. “Law enforcement also failed to maintain order and protect citizens from harm, injury, and death. Charlottesville preserved neither of those principles on Aug. 12, which has led to deep distrust of government within this community.”

White nationalists descended on Charlottesville in part to protest plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. They began fighting in the streets with counterdemonstrators before the event even officially began and the brawling went on for nearly an hour in front of officers until the event eventually disbanded. Later, as counterdemonstrators were peacefully marching through a downtown street, a car drove into the crowd, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring many more.

The Associated Press
FILE – In this Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, file photo, white nationalist demonstrators walk into the entrance of Lee Park surrounded by counter demonstrators in Charlottesville, Va. A former federal prosecutor says the law enforcement response to a whit

Public works officials had suggested using large barriers that can be filled with water to block vehicular traffic but Heaphy said “it just didn’t happen.”

The report was put together based on about 150 interviews, and the review of photos, video and over half a million documents.

Officers were dressed in everyday uniforms, not riot gear, at the start of the event. Instead of having helmets…

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