15 July 2017 | Lauren Berg | Richmond Times-Dispatch
Activists want all charges dropped against protesters arrested at the July 8 KKK rally in Charlottesville after they say police used unnecessary force against demonstrators, and the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is asking residents to urge the City Council to increase “civilian oversight and accountability in policing.”
Lodging allegations of police brutality, activists associated with Solidarity Cville held a news conference Friday in front of the Charlottesville Police Department, asking for police to apologize for their tactics at the rally and revoke the permit for the Aug. 12 “Unite the Right” rally, organized by pro-white blogger Jason Kessler.
Emily Gorcenski, who attended the rally, said it was unnecessary for police to declare unlawful assembly as protesters gathered around a garage where members of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan had parked. She said police did not give protesters and others enough time to leave the area before Virginia State Police deployed three canisters of tear gas.
“To be frank, it is ridiculous to expect a grieving community, with a deep legacy of racial violence, to simply pack up and go home after the KKK rallied in our city,” Gorcenski said.
After the Klansmen left, some protesters turned their attention to police and followed officers back up to High Street, where they continued to defy police commands to leave the area.
Gorcenski and other activists also criticized police for bringing riot gear and tear gas to the rally. Citing the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, the activists questioned why police still use tear gas, even though its use has been banned in warfare.
The convention — which went into effect in 1997 — bans the use of riot control agents, like tear gas, in war, but specifically states domestic law enforcement can still use chemical agents to control riots, according to Politifact.
In a brief interview earlier this week, city Police Chief Al Thomas said the decision was made to use the tear gas after people refused to leave and items were thrown at officers and pepper spray was used. The activists deny any use of pepper spray against police and, instead, argue police were not provoked.
When asked for information about the alleged assaults against their officers or the alleged use of pepper spray, a police spokesman said the department will release additional information about the rally in the future, while an internal review moves forward.
Every city officer at the rally wore a body camera during Saturday’s events, and police said it will take time to go through all of the footage.
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