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Review of Charlottesville rally response sharply faults law enforcement

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A former federal prosecutor’s review of law enforcement response at the August white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that left one dead reports that police were woefully unprepared and poorly organized in response to the event.

Former U.S. Attorney Tim Heaphy conducted an investigation of the “Unite the Right” rally at the request of city officials. The full report is available online.

Heaphy’s investigation found that police prepared a “flawed plan” for the rally, which was held on Aug. 11 and 12 in response to proposals to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

{mosads}Multiple sources report the chief of police responded to the first signs of violence by ordering, “let them fight, it will make it easier to declare an unlawful assembly.”

“The City of Charlottesville protected neither free expression nor public safety on August 12,” Heaphy wrote in his report.

Heaphy said that law enforcement was particularly unprepared for the torch-lit march that white nationalists organized on the night of Aug. 11 at the University of Virginia.

“University officials were aware of this event for hours before it began but took no action to enforce separation between groups or otherwise prevent violence,” he wrote. “They were unprepared when hundreds of white nationalists walked through the University grounds … the tenor of this event set an ominous tone for the following day. So did the relative passivity of law enforcement whose failure to anticipate violence and prevent disorders would be repeated on Saturday.”

On Saturday, the event turned deadly for one counterprotester after a car drove into a crowd of people.

Heaphy wrote that the “disastrous results” of poor planning by law enforcement have “led to deep distrust of government within this community.”

He said his team “did not find evidence of a direct order to officers to ‘stand down,'” but said police “elevated officer safety over public safety.”

“Even if there was no explicit ‘stand down’ order in place, [the Charlottesville Police Department] and [Virginia State Police] both failed to ‘stand up’ to protect human life.”

At least one Charlottesville official spoke out against the review, criticizing it for not being “unbiased” and saying it could put citizens in danger by sharing too much confidential information with white nationalists.

“I was hoping it would be unbiased and open-ended,” said City Councilor Bob Fenwick. “At this moment, I have grave doubt that is the case.”

A statewide review of the response will also be submitted to officials, according to The Daily Progress.

Last updated at 12:28 p.m.

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