Above Photo: The deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. (Michael Nigro)
The New York Times has released a video showing a white nationalist supporter opening fire near a crowd of counterprotesters during an Aug. 12 rally in Charlottesville, Va., while law enforcement officers on the scene made no movement to stop him. The rally generated international headlines when counterprotester Heather Heyer died after being run down by an automobile, but the video is the first depiction of gunfire at the event. The violence documented in the New York Times is consistent with Michael Nigro’s firsthand eyewitness account for Truthdig:
“The police are going to incite a race riot,” Hawk Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter New York, told me in the middle of an early afternoon skirmish. And he was right; their inaction helped create conditions for the violence that ensued.
At one point, fights broke out in front of the Charlottesville police station, where at least a dozen officers stood by the entrance doing nothing but watching like hockey referees during a brawl.
Metal poles were used to beat protesters, and the police stood by. Alt-right members deployed pepper spray, and the police stood by. Blood poured from injured people’s large gashes, and the police did nothing.
In the video below, in the words of the Times article, “a white nationalist protester in a bulletproof vest turned, pointed a pistol toward the crowd and fired a single shot at the ground, in the direction of a black man wielding an improvised torch.” The man with the pistol yelled a racial slur before firing, and walked calmly away afterward—right past a line of about a dozen police troopers.
Witnesses told the Times that nearby police officers heard the shot but did nothing to intervene:
“We all heard it and ran — I know damn well they heard it,” said Rosia Parker, a community activist in Charlottesville. “They never moved.”
Police had a suspect in the shooting in custody on Saturday morning, according to an official familiar with the investigation, who requested anonymity to provide information not yet public. But residents are still demanding to know why officers did not act in real time as heavily armed people fought and a car sped toward a crowd, killing a woman. So stark was the police failure to intervene, many participants in the protest and counterprotests believe it was by design. …
Officials have insisted that no “stand down” order was issued, and a state police spokeswoman said troopers did not hear the shot. But many people suspect the inaction was deliberate, because just a month earlier, the police were heavily criticized for responding harshly at a Ku Klux Klan rally where anti-Klan protesters were sprayed with tear gas and arrested.
This is not the first time counterprotesters have blamed law enforcement for failing to stop violence at the rally. Only after Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe called a state of emergency and the rally was declared to be an “unlawful assembly” did police break up the gathering.
“Throughout the entire weekend, Virginia state police, Charlottesville Police Department intervened to break up fights and altercations among those in attendance at the rally site,” Thomas said at a press conference. “This began on Friday night and continued through Sunday.”
He said police “had a very large footprint during this entire endeavor.”