State and local authorities received a warning from the Department of Homeland Security three days before the deadly Charlottesville rally Aug. 12 that they should prepare for violent clashes between white supremacists and anarchists.
The confidential assessment, reported by Politico, raises further questions about the handling of the clash by Virginia state and Charlottesville authorities.
As WND reported, the ACLU and reporters covering the rally contend the violence escalated due to a lack of police oversight that some believe was intentional, ultimately blaming Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
“The police actually allowed us to square off against each other,” a counter-protester told CNN. “There were fights, and the police were standing a block away the entire time. It’s almost as if they wanted us to fight each other.” The ACLU contends the “passive” police presence may have been a deliberate attempt to allow authorities to declare an “unlawful assembly” and justify shutting down the rally.
Politico noted the Aug. 9 DHS report showed “both sides were clearly gearing up for an unprecedented confrontation” in the weeks leading up to the Aug. 12 “Unite the Right” rally.
Issued by the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis, it stated: “Anarchist extremists and white supremacist extremists online are calling on supporters to be prepared for or to instigate violence at the 12 August rally.”
The report, done in coordination with local, state and federal authorities at the Virginia Fusion Center, stated that white supremacists and “antifa” extremists had clashed twice before in Charlottesville.
At a white nationalist rally on May 13 and a Ku Klux Klan gathering July 7, the “anarchist extremists” attacked protesters who had been issued permits, leading to fights, injuries, arrests and at least two felony charges of assault and battery.
In May, a joint intelligence bulletin of the FBI and DHS warned that white supremacist groups had already carried out more attacks than any other domestic extremist group over the past 16 years and were likely to carry out more attacks over the next year, ForeignPolicy.com reported
The Aug. 12 clash took place at Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park, which had become a flashpoint after the city changed its name from Robert E. Lee Park in June. One day after the violent street fights, a Toledo, Ohio, man, James Alex Fields Jr., allegedly drove his car into counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Fields has been charged with second-degree murder.
Violence on ‘any side’
The clash dominated news in the following week when President Trump was accused of not directly condemning the white supremacists, insisting on two occasions that “both sides” bore responsibility.
On Monday, McAuliffe also denounced violence on all sides, though he didn’t specifically condemned the “anti-fascist” group “antifa,” Lifezette reported.
Responding to a reporter with the Independent Journal Review, the governor said: “I disavow anyone — we won’t tolerate violence of any kind.
“You’re entitled to protest. First Amendment certainly protected. As I’ve said after Charlottesville, anyone who came to our state, anyone who committed violence, on any side, will be arrested,” McAuliffe said. “Everybody’s entitled to do their protest, but we’re not going to accept violence from anybody.”
WND reported the “Unite the Right” organizer was until recently a Barack Obama supporter and was also a member of the leftist Occupy Wall Street Movement, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. He appears to have a history of leftist activism, SPLC said, and only expressed a “rightward shift” in November, around the time of President Trump’s election.
Charlottesville police have been criticized for being unprepared, including failing to don riot gear, and a law expert who spoke to Politico said the DHS assessment reinforced their concerns about the response.
“It is unconscionable that with so much advance notice of the declared intentions of extremist groups from the left and right vowing to descend upon Charlottesville that law enforcement was not better prepared,” James Gagliano, a recently retired FBI supervisory special agent, told Politico.
City and police officials have insisted they did all they could with the resources they had but were overwhelmed by the number of violent protesters. They also argued a federal court, siding with the ACLU-backed organizers, overturned their decision to revoke the rally permit.
Federal, state and local authorities declined to comment on the details of the DHS report, but they insisted to Politico they had taken appropriate steps to prepare.