Anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville angered by heightened police presence, riot gear

Anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville angered by heightened police presence, riot gear
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Anti-racist protesters staging nonviolent demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday said they were aggravated and perplexed by the heightened police presence that involved dozens of law enforcement officers in riot gear.

The nearly 200 protesters were gathered to march against white supremacy almost one year after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville turned violent, resulting in the death of Heather Heyer.

On Saturday, hundreds of police officers surrounded Charlottesville's downtown area throughout the day in order to preclude any violent outbursts, according to multiple reports. Though there were no white nationalist events scheduled, many feared a repeat of last year, when authorities were blasted for being underprepared for the violence that broke out.

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According to reports from The Washington Post and The Associated Press, the nighttime protesters mobilized against the police presence, which some described as aggressive and which some compared to last year's white supremacists. 

"Last year they came with torches,” read a large banner in downtown Charlottesville, according to The Washington Post. “This year they come with badges.”

Videos from the march show police in neon vests and riot gear flanking peaceful protesters on all sides as they march through the streets. 

"Cops and Klan go hand in hand," Kibiriti Majuto, a coordinator for the University of Virginia's UVA Students United, told the AP.

An independent investigation by a former federal prosecutor of last year's rally determined the violence got out of hand, in part, because law enforcement was overly passive and uncoordinated.  

“I see a disproportionality,” Lisa Woolfork, a UVA professor, told the Post. “Unless there is something they’re not telling us and have some intelligence that the white nationalists will still march in force, it seems like who they’re gearing up to monitor and observe and contain and discipline are those of us who want to resist fascism and racism.”

Activists reportedly began chanting, "Why are you in riot gear? We don't see no riot here." 

Earlier Saturday, U.Va.'s student newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, reported that up to 300 National Guard troops and more than 700 Virginia State troopers were set to be housed in part in campus housing. 

Hundreds of white nationalists are set to host "Unite the Right 2" in Washington, D.C., on Sunday evening, one year after the rally in Charlottesville. Opponents have organized counterprotests in the city throughout the day and are expected to come face-to-face with white supremacist groups outside the White House in the evening.

D.C. police, as well as D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, have stated multiple times that law enforcement will be out in full force in order to keep the dueling protest groups separate and to prevent any potential violence.