When we originally heard that there was going to be a major rally in Charlottesville yesterday on the one-year anniversary of the bloodshed at the first Unite the Right march, there was obvious reason for concern. Would the same group of neo-Nazis and wannabe Klansmen show up again leading to a battle with counterprotesters? Antifa showed up early in significant numbers, claiming that they were simply there to honor the memory of Heather Heyer, the young woman who died when one of the Klan supporters plowed his car into the crowd. But taking one look at their outfits and equipment it seemed obvious they were prepared for more than a memorial service. Fortunately, law enforcement was out on the streets in large numbers, keeping an eye out for trouble and ready to respond.
Here’s the curious, if not alarming part of the story. The white supremacists didn’t show up. (They were probably already on their way to Washington.) But even stranger than that was the fact that most of the protesters didn’t seem to be there to raise their voices against the Klan or Nazis or racism. They were there to protest the cops. (Reuters)
Hundreds of students and left-wing activists took to the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, as a rally to mark the anniversary of last year’s white nationalist gathering turned largely into an anti-police protest.
With chants like, “Cops and Klan go hand in hand,” the protesters’ criticisms of both police and the University of Virginia underscored the resentment that still exists a year after torch-bearing neo-Nazis marched through campus, shouting anti-Semitic messages and beating counterprotesters.
Several students said they were angry that the police response was far larger this year compared with last year, when people carrying tiki torches the white nationalist rally went mostly unchecked.
At one point on Saturday, dozens of officers in riot gear formed a line near where the rally was taking place, prompting many protesters to rush over yelling, “Why are you in riot gear? We don’t see no riot here.”
The sights and sounds were gathered by both the press and the participants, quickly showing up on social media. This video has a lot of raw footage from the protests. If you skip forward to the 1:45 mark you’ll see the first of the banners which aren’t going after racists, but instead, the police. One group of young women carry a banner reading, “Behind Every Cop, A Klansman.” You can hear raucous chants of, “Civil servants, that’s a lie. You don’t care if people die,” along with, “Cops and Klan Go Hand in Hand.” (Who writes this stuff for them?) It only goes downhill from there. The largest banner reads, “Last Year They Came w/ Torches. This Year They Come w/ Badges.”
In this video, the Washington Post gamely attempts to find people talking about white supremacists, but the first couple of protesters they interview can only talk about how many cops are there and how that doesn’t make them feel any safer.
The complete lack of gratitude on display by these protesters for the cops who showed up to keep them safe from violence probably isn’t all that shocking in the current era. But the hypocrisy and total disconnect from reality in this spectacle is staggering. As you may recall, one of the biggest complaints coming out of Charlottesville last year was that the city was unprepared and there wasn’t sufficient protection available in the face of escalating violence between the two groups clashing in the streets. So this year the city had everyone with a badge out there in a show of force to make sure there wasn’t a repeat of that debacle, but what did they get for their efforts? A rally against the police.
The real action should be coming out of Washington later when the actual Unite the Right rally takes place. There are already predictions that the counterprotesters will outnumber the marchers. I’ll be hoping that things remain peaceful but I’m not getting my hopes up.