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Charlottesville declares state of emergency as city braces for anniversary of deadly white nationalist rally

Charlottesville officials have been planning for the Unite the Right anniversary for six months.
by Dennis Romero /
Image: Violent Clashes Erupt at "Unite The Right" Rally In Charlottesville
White nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the "alt-right" exchange insuts with counter-protesters as they attempt to guard the entrance to Lee Park during the "Unite the Right" rally on Aug. 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images file

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Charlottesville, Virginia, is bracing for demonstrations marking the one year anniversary of the Unite the Right rally, where white nationalists and counter-protesters clashed violently last year, resulting in the death of a 32-year-old woman.

The city on Wednesday declared a state of emergency in order to provide maximum law enforcement resources starting 6 p.m. Friday and extending through Monday morning, Police Chief RaShall Brackney told reporters during an afternoon news conference.

Viriginia Gov. Ralph Northam also declared a statewide state of emergency earlier in the day. The declarations free up $2 million for first responders and mobilize the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Health, Virginia National Guard, and other state agencies this weekend.

Brackney said the large number of police on the streets would be "a deterrent to anyone who would want to come into the community" to prevent others from exercising free speech.

Otherwise, she said, "People are welcome into the community. People are invited into the community."

Authorities on Wednesday said a downtown secure area for demonstrators has been established and that weapons such as sharp items, bats, mace, fireworks, lumber, stun guns, BB guns or any other types of guns, including air rifles, are all banned.

Additionally, they said, the wearing of masks would generally be prohibited.

The official "Unite the Right 2" anniversary rally is scheduled to take place Aug. 11 and 12 at Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which keeps tabs on extremist organizations, organizer Jason Kessler hopes neo-Nazi Congressional candidate Paul Nehlen of Wisconsin and Klu Klux Klan leader David Duke will speak at the event.

Citing public safety concerns, city of Charlottesville officials in December denied organizers' request for a permit to hold the rally there this year. Despite the venue change, Charlottesville officials were preparing for the worst.

After last year's rally on Aug. 12, 2017, counterdemonstrator Heather D. Heyer was killed, authorities allege, when 21-year-old motorist James Alex Fields, Jr. of Ohio plowed a Dodge Challenger into a crowd of protesters. He's facing a local first-degree murder case as well as federal hate crime indictment.

Two Virginia State Police officials assigned to last year's rally died in an unrelated helicopter crash that day. They were identified as the pilot, Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, and tropper-pilot Berke M.M. Bates.

Thirty-five people at the 2017 demonstrations were treated for injuries, many sustained in physical clashes between hundreds of white nationalists and those opposed to them.

After the rally President Donald Trump was widely criticized for saying there was "blame on both sides" of the political and racial divide in the city that day.

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