Police Prepare for Virginia Rally Protesting Removal of Confederate Statue

Police are preparing as a group protesting the removal of a confederate statue is planning a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend.

Thousands of people are expected at the Unite the Right rally being held at Emancipation Park, formerly known as Lee Park. Earlier this year, the city council voted to rename the park and move the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism said it could be the largest white supremacist gathering in a decade.

Barricades are going up, police will patrol the area on the ground and in the air, and the National Guard will be on standby Saturday.

“This morning, I was briefed for the second time this week by public safety officials in my cabinet, the Virginia State Police, the National Guard and the Department of Emergency Management on their preparations for tomorrow’s rally in Charlottesville,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in a statement. “I have directed them to coordinate with federal and local authorities and take every precaution necessary to ensure the safety of their personnel, the Charlottesville community and rally attendees. Virginia State Police is leading the Commonwealth’s planning and response for these events and will be on the scene in a support capacity before, during and after the planned rally. At my direction, personnel from the Virginia National Guard are also standing by to respond if needed.”

McAuliffe said there have been communications from extremists who may try to commit acts of violence against participants or police.

Right-wing blogger Jason Kessler, the organizer of the rally that is expected to draw "alt-right" activists and white nationalists, filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday against the city of Charlottesville. The city wants to move his rally to a larger park farther from downtown. Kessler says that's a free speech violation.

McAuliffe asked both supporters and opponents of the rally to stay away.

“Many of the individuals coming to Charlottesville tomorrow are doing so in order to express viewpoints many people, including me, find abhorrent,” he said. “As long as that expression is peaceful, that is their right. But it is also the right of every American to deny those ideas more attention than they deserve.”

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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