WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The inadequate and disconnected response of the Charlottesville Police Department (CPD) to maintain law and order during the August 12 "Unite the Right" protest rally produced disastrous results, the independent review of the 2017 protest events in Charlottesville, Virginia conducted by the law firm Hunton & Williams said on Friday.
Heaphy chided the CPD as "uncertain and unprepared for a challenging enforcement environment" and lacking any centralized command structure.
Because of their misalignment and lack of accessible protective gear, officers failed to intervene in physical altercations that took place in areas adjacent to Charlottesville’s park where Robert E. Lee’s statue is located, according to the report.
"VSP [Virginia State Police] directed its officers to remain behind barricades rather than risk injury responding to conflicts between protesters and counter-protesters. CPD commanders similarly instructed their officers not to intervene in all but the most serious physical confrontations. Neither agency deployed available field forces or other units to protect public safety at the locations where violence took place," the report said.
"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.
Moreover, the CPD did not reach out to other police jurisdictions that had experience dealing with the demonstrators that took center stage in Charlottesville on August 12, the report added.
August's clashes between far-right group's members protesting against the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee and participants of a counter-rally, including Antifa, that culminated in a car-ramming attack that killed one person and injured 19 others, occurred when police withdrew and allowed the two groups to meet.
Following the incident, two lawsuits were filed against the organizers and attendees of the rally in order to prevent violent clashes from happening again.
The clashes have sparked a debate on the Confederate flags and monuments and also resulted in criticism of President Donald Trump's attitude to the events at the white nationalist rally, who first blamed "both sides" for the violence, but later condemned all kinds of racism and supremacism.