The latest development in the story of Charlottesville is a report coming from Politico that the Department of Homeland Security gave a confidential warning of potential dangers to local and state authorities three days before the August 12th rally that resulted in casualties. According to the Politico report, the DHS said that recent events resulted in a potential powder keg that could easily become “among the most violent to date”, especially with the involvement of white supremacists and anarchists at the rally. The DHS report mentioned previous incidents in Charlottesville as proof of this, such as a July 7th Ku Klux Klan gathering and a May 13th white nationalist rally. At least two felony charges of assault and battery were handed out at these incidents after protests turned violent. Furthermore, the DHS highlighted several white supremacists and anarchist leaders making calls that could be perceived by their supporters as approving of violent acts.
Of course, three days after the report was released, hundreds of people got engaged in a day of battle once the white supremacist rally at Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park, formerly known as Robert E. Lee Park. The headline coming out of the clash was a neo-Nazi sympathizer killing one and injuring 19 after driving a car through a crowd of aggressive counter-protestors.
Observers are now questioning why the local authorities lost a handle on the August 12th situation if they were given this warning ahead of time. Charlottesville police failed to arrive in riot gear and did not look prepared in terms of numbers to keep the two protesting groups separated from each other. Former FBI SWAT team leader James Gagliano said that, in light of this DHS report, the Charlottesville police department was “woefully underprepared for something they had advance notice of and plenty of actionable intelligence about.” Those who have defended Charlottesville authorities point to their attempt to shut down the rally earlier that week, although a federal court overturned the decision after a challenge supported by the American Civil Liberties Union. However, defense of Charlottesville’s local efforts were undermined by the comments of City Manager Maurice Jones, who said that while the authorities attempted to move the rally because they were aware of these safety concerns, “We hoped that the groups that descended on our community would not engage in violence, but they did,” which now looks short-sighted given the burden of proof that the DHS provided them beforehand.
The event later became a national political and cultural flashpoint once U.S. President Donald Trump called “both sides” responsible for the violence without condemning the white nationalist movement by name. Since then, a nationwide movement has been organized against the rise of white supremacy in the country, which is expected to be highlighted in a 100-mile march from Charlottesville to Washington, D.C. scheduled to take place on September 6th.