Alt-right and white nationalist rallygoers are pointing fingers at the counterprotesters who showed up to denounce them for causing violence over the weekend in Charlottesville, VA. Anti-racist protesters say "Unite the Right" rally participants were yelling racial epithets and provoking confrontation. But both sides agree that one group didn't do enough to prevent the violence as the crowds grew and tensions flared: the police.
Critics say both Charlottesville Police and Virginia State Police stood on the sidelines Saturday as skirmishes erupted between white nationalists and members of Antifa, a broad movement of left-leaning groups. The two groups confronted each other in Emancipation (formerly [Robert E.] Lee) Park with shields and pepper spray.
It wasn't until police declared the rally an "unlawful assembly" and Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency that police ordered the gathering to break up and scattered the crowds throughout the city.
Charlottesville mayor Michael Signer, speaking on CNN Monday morning, defended law enforcement's preparation in advance of the rally.
"We had on the ground here the largest deployment of law enforcement professionals in Virginia since 9/11," Signer said. "As I understood it, almost a thousand officers were right here on the ground."
He added that it's the government's responsibility to "set the conditions to prepare so people can peaceably assemble."
Corinne Geller, spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, echoed the mayor's remarks and told WCAV that police don't tell people where to stand at a protest.
"That's part of the privilege of having the freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly," she said.