Charlottesville’s Path to Polarization, Part 2

by Reed Fawell III

This is the second of five posts on the events surrounding the white nationalist protests against efforts to remove the Lee and Jackson statues that occurred in the spring and summer of 2017 in Charlottesville, Va.  The facts asserted are based on the narrative found in the Independent Review of the 2017 Protest Event in Charlottesville.”

An altogether different cast of white nationalists, a Ku Klux Klan group based in Pelham, N.C., decided to protest Charlottesville’s decision to remove the Lee statue soon after the news of the May 13 rallies reached them. On May 24, 2017, a Klan member (the Klan Rep.) filed an application for a “public demonstration” on July 8, from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. to “stop cultural genocide” in Charlottesville.

Based on her experience at such rallies held in Berkeley, Ca.; Danville, Va.; Columbia, SC; Raleigh, NC; and Stuart, Va., the Klan Rep. requested that Charlottesville:

  1.  provide bus transport for the Klan from a secret offsite location to and from the protest site in Charlottesville, given that “jurisdictions that use this strategy keep the Klan separated from protesters,” and that,
  2. the city delay announcing the Klan event to the public “until the last minute.’ Again, in her experience, a delay in announcing Klan events until the last minute would result in a smaller and less hostile crowd of counter-protesters at the event.

The city declined both requests.  It publicized the rally on May 24, the day the Klan filed its application.  It later also denied bus transport, believing buses unnecessary.  The Charlottesville Police Department (CPD) did agree with the Klan as follows.

The rally event would be shifted from the Charlottesville City Circuit Courthouse steps, as originally requested by the Klan, to the site of the Jackson statue in Justice Park that had just been renamed from Jackson Park, its original name since 1921.

Regarding transport, the CPD would meet the Klan at “a secret location on City property just outside the downtown area.”  From that rendezvous point, two CPD squad cars would escort the Klan’s caravan of cars (not to exceed 25) to a surface parking lot in the city next to the Albemarle County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court (JDR).  This lot was within a short walking distance across Park Street to the Klan’s designated rally area (KKK Zone) within Justice Park.  Once parked on the surface lot, the police would escort the Klan on foot to their KKK Zone.

To facilitate this plan, the Klan would assemble overnight in Waynesboro, Va, then drive over the mountain to Charlottesville the next afternoon.  In so doing, the Klan would alert CPD to its arrival when 10 minutes away from the rendezvous site to assure their timely arrival at Justice Park by 3:00 p.m.

The CPD later described the Klan Rep as “overall, very cooperative” in working out their plan.  CPD also said that the Klan ‘adhered to the plan’ created by the police.

The Klan’s Rep., however, expressed grave concerns soon after she learned that the City had announced their rally to the public on June 24.  She told CPD that the “counter-protesters had begun organizing on social media to attend the Klan event while armed, and she urged a weapons check at Justice Park to avoid a ‘blood bath.’”

These, and subsequent events, would highlight Charlottesville’s failure to seek advice from others on how they had dealt with threats of violence in similar situations.  And how the City and Virginia state officials had otherwise failed to train, prepare, and cooperate with one another, to effectively thwart threats posed by such events.  Thus, violence ensued in Charlottesville on July 8.  Those actions ignited a cascade of consequences that fractured the City, severely impairing its ability to deal with the larger and more dangerous protests on August 11/12.  And those adverse impacts plague the City still.

This, I believe, is the central finding of the Independent Report.  But why and how did this happen in Charlottesville?  This needs further exploration.

Inexplicably, this failure occurred despite ample intelligence on the threat posed. CPD’s own intelligence gathering clearly predicted “that the July 8 event would likely be a large, confrontational, and potentially violent event … The sharing of all intelligence made (this) clear to all CPD personnel.”  Some 600 to 800 counter- protesters, and up to 100 Klan, were projected to attend.  Many would be armed.  And the counter-protesters were known to be planning to shut down the event.

“For example, the Greensboro, North Carolina police shared with the CPD a flyer from social media advertising for (out of town) counter-protesters to (travel to and) attend the Klan rally in Charlottesville ‘to shut them down.’”  The North Carolina police also suggested that squabbling within the Klan might significantly reduce the 100 Klan members earlier estimated to travel to Charlottesville for the rally.  Both predictions proved highly prescient on July 8.

Continue reading

A PETA-Free Zone for Tarheel Ponies

The Bacon family is vacationing in Emerald Isle again this summer, and today we took an excursion to Shackleford Banks near Beaufort, N.C. Shackleford Banks is a beautiful barrier island uninhabited except by a small herd of ponies. As with the famous swimming of the ponies from Assateague, Va., to Chincoteague, in which wild ponies are auctioned off by the community, Carolinians cull the pony population of Shackleford to keep the herd to a size consistent with the island’s ecological carrying capacity. There is no swimming from island to island, however, and, as far as I know, no ponies have died — as happened in Assateague last week in a freak accident. So far, the Beaufort community has avoided getting in the crosshairs of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Let’s hope it stays that way. The Bacons enjoyed their visit to Shackleford Banks so much that they have resolved to return for a longer visit and more wide-ranging exploration of the island.

Specific Updates: Lobbyists, Lottery, Tuition

A few updates, clearing the decks before I disappear next week (I’m not quite as dedicated as Bacon, although I will take the laptop to Duck.)  My son who blogs on University of Virginia sports is going to give me some tips.  (StLouisHoo or something like that…)

Specifics on Who is Not Specific

The Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) has once again demonstrated the power of a good chart (see above), this one tracking the number of 2018 disclosure forms filed by lobbyists which list bill numbers, and frankly it is a lower percentage than even I realized.   Absent any corrective action by the existing oversight committee or legislators, who are probably not motivated to require more disclosure, the number of disclosure forms listing bills by number will drop further.  No consequence, no change.

If the situation changed, you can see on VPAP the potential for a real tracking system where you could see which companies or associations weighed in on which bills.

Specifics on Who Plays the Lottery

Source: Virginia Lottery

A request for additional information on lottery spending or lottery frequency by income category, following my earlier report, drew a response from the Virginia Lottery that the information is not available.  Perhaps it is a question they do not want to ask or a survey crosstab they do not want to see.

My query did produce some additional data on who plays which games.  It was interesting that those with the lowest level of education, the 12 percent of respondents who didn’t finish high school, are least likely to play and of course least likely to have much discretionary income.  (They are underrepresented in the sample, however.)  People with a high school diploma but no college are the heaviest players of daily games and scratch games, which as noted earlier produce the most revenue.

Additional data was sent on the purchase of lottery tickets by automatic debits or charges, called a subscription in their terminology.  That approach to playing is most popular in the more economically healthy and urban regions of the commonwealth.

Source: Virginia Lottery

They did push back a bit on my assertion that the purchase of U.S. Treasury investments to cover deferred future payouts is another way the house wins, and correctly pointed out the state lottery doesn’t gain any benefit from that.  Yes, in that case I was using the term “the house” to mean government in general, including the federal government, which most certainly benefits from this steady market for these securities.

Specifics on Higher Education Inflation

You read it first on Bacon’s Rebellion a few weeks ago, but the large increase in the tuition and fees bills for this coming term at the state’s public colleges and community colleges is now fully detailed in the official release from the State Council of Higher Education.  The Richmond Times-Dispatch coverage is here.

The Far Right Is in Decline. If Only the Same Were True of the Far Left

Good news is a scarce commodity these days, but here’s a heartening headline from the Wall Street Journal: “A Year After Charlottesville, the Alt-Right Movement Frays.”

Alt-Right rallies around the country are fizzling as white supremacist groups are hampered by lawsuits, infighting and a social media crackdown. “It’s been a total fracturing of the right,” the Journal quotes Jason Kessler, organizer of last year’s Unite the Right rally, as saying.

Hopefully, white supremacists will continue their downward spiral into total irrelevance. The answer to identity politics on the left is not identity politics on the right. Let progressives claim the banner of resentment and grievance. Conservatives and Libertarians need to preach a gospel of aspiration, prosperity, opportunity and uplift for all Americans.

According to a spreading progressive doctrine, racism by definition can exist only on the right, not the left. The expression of resentment, antagonism and hatred of ethnic/racial minorities, born of powerlessness, cannot be racism. Only those in power can be guilty of racism. From everything I’ve seen, those who hew to the white supremacist movement are, from a socioeconomic perspective, a bunch of sad, pathetic losers. Plumbers, truck drivers and gun-store clerks living in their parents’ basement have no power. But in places like Charlottesville and Portland, leftists control the levers of government. How’s that for irony?

Hypocrisy aside, if the left wants to make the argument that hatred is legitimate as  long as the haters are leftists, let them make that argument. That makes the choices all the more stark.

Speaking of which… Don’t miss Reed Fawell’s series of posts on “Charlottesville’s Path to Polarization,” which are based upon the meticulous and scrupulously even-handed, “Independent Review of the 2017 Protest Event in Charlottesville,” We published Part 1 a couple of days ago, and Part 2 will be forthcoming in a day or two, with the rest to come (hopefully) within a few days after that. The posts are long but immensely informative. Make sure you read them.

Moneysaurus and the Trumpenproletariat

Since the end of World War II, the nonprofit sector has consumed an increasing share of the United States economy. Health care, which is dominated by nonprofit hospitals, now hogs an 18% share. The growth of higher education, an overwhelmingly nonprofit industry, continues to outpace the general economy. Millionaires and billionaires are converting wealth into non-taxable foundations on an unprecedented scale, supporting the proliferation of tax-exempt foundations and nonprofit enterprises.

There are now some 1.6 million nonprofit institutions in the U.S. employing 11.4 million people and comprising the third largest employer in the country after retail and manufacturing, according to the Independent Sector website. In 2016 the PHP Staffing Group reported that employment over the previous 10 years had grown 20%  for non-profits compared to 2% to 3% for the for-profit sector.

Americans typically think of the U.S. economy as divided between the government sector and the private sector. But that view grossly oversimplifies the modern American economy. The nonprofit sector, which comprises 10% of the economy, belongs in category by itself. Nonprofit entities are private in the sense that they are not government organizations. But they behave very differently from for-profit enterprises. Most importantly, they aren’t accountable to the public in the same way that government and corporations are.

Americans have a U.S. Constitution and 50 state constitutions with checks and balances. We hold elections to throw out politicians we don’t like. We have the right to attend public meetings and to petition the government. We have transparency rules governing access to information. We have a fourth estate which, though diminished in size and capacity, views its central mission as acting as a watchdog over government. Governance leaves much to be desired — gerrymandering is a travesty of democracy — but the public is acutely aware of the inadequacies, and people are working to fix them.

We have a different set of mechanisms to hold corporations accountable. Executives of U.S. corporations answer to boards of directors, to equity investors, to bond holders, to banks and other financiers, and, most dramatically, to the marketplace. Unlike failed governments, failed corporations go out of business. Their corporate DNA exits the economic gene pool. Government functions as an additional backstop against corporate abuses against the public health and safety.

To whom do nonprofits answer in exchange for the massive benefit of being exempt from taxes? Nonprofits do have boards of directors (or trustees) but they don’t have investors capable of overthrowing them in a shareholder revolt or otherwise enforcing accountability. Most nonprofit boards are docile; they rubber stamp management’s vision for institutional advancement. While nonprofits aren’t as immune to catastrophic failure as governments are, they don’t pay the same price that corporations do for failure. Indeed, nonprofits with large endowments can be immune to outside pressure. Not that anyone notices. Transparency standards are minimal compared to those for government and publicly traded companies. Billions of dollars of so-called “dark money” slosh through the nonprofit system with almost no oversight and accountability. Except when scandals erupt, the fourth estate considers nonprofit activities of secondary interest. 

The political economy of nonprofits. Nonprofit entities have fundamentally changed the nature of American society, the economy. and the political system. Americans have been astonishingly sanguine about the creation of a new set of winners and losers.

Who are the winners? There are two sets of clear-cut winners — the millionaires and billionaires who get to shelter their wealth, and the nonprofit managerial class that gets to administer it. Insofar as the nonprofit managerial class is comprised of university-educated progressives who prioritize social justice issues, poor people and minorities are intended beneficiaries. However, insofar as the therapeutic ministrations of social-justice minions are counter-productive — a point I have argued repeatedly on this blog — the poor and minorities may be in actuality more victims than beneficiaries.

Whatever may be the case in that particular regard, the priorities of millionaires, billionaires and nonprofit administrators rarely extend to the well-being of working-class and middle-class Americans — especially the alienated, white Trump-voting segment of the electorate whom some have labeled the Trumpenproletariat.

These biases are most clearly visible in the higher education sector. The number one goal of the managerial class at colleges and universities is institutional advancement: building edifices, programs, and bureaucratic empires that maximize the prestige of the institution. In the pursuit of this goal, the managerial class is responsive to two main constituencies: (1) affluent alumni and their offspring (commonly referred to as legacies) whose good will they cultivate for gifts and benefactions, and (2)  lower-income and minority Americans in alignment with the leftist, politically correct value system of academe. The Trumpenproletariat, representing some 40% or so of the nation’s population, has zero influence. Continue reading

Somebody Must Think We’re Stupid

David Poole and his team at VPAP have provided another illustration of how the reporting requirements placed on lobbyists at the state Capitol are intentionally vague and useless.  The chart above deals with the reports on lobbyist compensation.

This is usually the figure at the heart of the occasional stories about the amount spent by an individual company, or the gross amount spent on lobbying by all who file these forms.  But in practice almost nobody reports in full what they are paid, and they of course do things other than lobbying with their time.  So they pro-rate their fee and salary and report only a portion of it.

Who draws the line?  Who picks the formula for pro-rating the time? The lobbyist or the principal do so for themselves and are never asked to report their rationale.  That’s why comparisons are impossible – some report 5 percent and some 100.  Partly there is the natural reluctance everybody has to reveal their income, but there is also a reluctance to stand out as a big spender on charts like those produced by VPAP or in a news story.

A Peek Inside the Process

Years ago, one of the best lobbyists I ever worked with, a fine lawyer, instructed me that only the time I spent talking or writing to a legislative or executive branch official about a specific bill or vote was lobbying.  The time I spent researching the issue, drafting legislation or talking points, driving to the meeting, sitting in the anteroom – none of those hours, the bulk of the time, constituted lobbying.  The ten or fifteen minutes in the room, that was the only actual lobbying.

This all flows back to the very narrow definition of lobbying in Virginia law, which does not get into indirect lobbying or grassroots lobbying or lobbying preparation, all things that come up when companies are deciding what is and isn’t lobbying for federal tax compliance purposes.  This situation is too ridiculous to be accident or oversight, and extremely convenient for both the lobbyists and the lobbied.

Compensation is not that relevant.  What matters far more, the real glaring gap in the reports, are the details about what specific subject matters, bills, budget amendments, gubernatorial appointments or procurement decisions are being influenced.   The shameful gaps in the reports include loopholes that allow expensive dinners, gifts or entertainment to be given with no recipients named, or money to shuffle between various entities under the guise of some unregistered coalition.

Also, the full extent of grassroots or indirect efforts needs to be revealed.  More and more issues now spark television, direct mail, phone bank and other campaign style communications efforts, and every dime spent on those should be just as transparent as if they were being spent on a candidate.

One area where compensation should be reported in full is when the client is the government.  Beyond that, we need to focus on those other more important failings in the current non-disclosure disclosure regime, although this contribution by VPAP is useful in demonstrating that somebody out there thinks we’re stupid.

Goodbye and Good Riddance to Goodlatte

Carpetbagger. Bob Goodlatte is the 13-term congressman from Virginia’s 6th Congressional District who has blessedly chosen to retire this year. In my opinion he represents just about everything that is wrong with the GOP. Born in Holyoke, Massachusetts and educated at Bates College in Maine, Goodlatte somehow avoids the “carpetbagger” moniker so quickly put on Terry McAuliffe by Virginia’s Republicans. He won his congressional seat at age 39 and has spent the last 26 years in Congress. Yet he goes uncriticized as a “politician for life” by the conservative Newt Gingrich types who claim to eschew such long running elected officials. He is a polluter’s best friend with apparently no concern for the property rights of those negatively affected by the pollution he justifies and defends. However, he’ll be gone soon and you’d think we’re past the damage done by this phony conservative. Oh no.  Even in his final days in office Goodlatte is actively denying people protection of their property rights despite “property rights” supposedly being a core tenet of conservative Republican dogma. What a farce.

Blowing up the blueprint. The Chesapeake Bay represents not only a national treasure but a working laboratory for the protection of property rights. Certainly right thinking conservatives must believe that allowing a small minority of people and corporations to pollute a public waterway unfairly takes away the property rights of non-polluters. In the case of a waterway that borders multiple states, one would think that sensible and honest conservatives would insist that the federal government protect the property rights of all the states.  Isn’t this both a core tenet of conservatism and a reasonable construct of property rights?  Not according to Bob Goodlatte.

The Chesapeake Bay watershed states have claimed to be working together to clean up the Bay for the past forty years. For 31 of those years the effort failed as various states simply ignored their clean up commitments. Then, in 2009, the EPA was authorized to provide scientific leadership and oversight for a new clean-up plan — the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint. Progress has been substantial since that time. Despite Virginia being a major beneficiary of the blueprint, one of our own Congressmen has put forth an amendment to curtail the EPA’s role in this effort.  You guessed it, ole Bob Goodlatte sponsored an amendment to H.R. 6147 forbidding the EPA from spending money to provide firm, science-based accountability over the blueprint. As a press release from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation puts it, “Congressman Goodlatte’s amendment would keep EPA from using any funds to provide this “firm accountability” if a state fails to meet its pollution-reduction goals set under the Blueprint.” So much for preservation of property rights from this so-called conservative.

Hall of shame. Bob Goodlatte’s amendment for the protection of raw sewage in public waters passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 213 to 202.  Seven of Virginia’s Representatives (Wittman, Taylor, Scott, McEachin, Beyer, Comstock and Connolly) repudiated Sideshow Bob and his amendment by voting against it. However, four of our so-called representatives (Garrett, Goodlatte, Brat and Griffith) couldn’t find the mental acuity to understand how a clean Chesapeake Bay might help the Commonwealth of Virginia. While it’s no excuse for their buffoonery Garrett, Goodlatte and Griffith have districts far from the Bay. Brat, by comparison, has a district bordering the city of Richmond. What are the voters in the 7th district thinking? Will “Kepone Dave” get re-elected? Here’s a good article about the cleanliness of the James River in Richmond (warning: true but disgusting content)

Going forward. The congressional seat being vacated by Bob Goodlatte’s retirement will be contested by Ben Cline (R) and Jennifer Lewis (D). Cline is a member of the General Assembly and long time Goodlatte toady. Lewis is a bleeding heart liberal with minimal political experience. So far, Lewis has raised $72,000 to Cline’s $787,000. The Cook Partisan Voter Index for the district is R+13. Sadly, Cline will almost certainly win and continue the anti-conservative, anti-Virginia activities of his predecessor.

— Don Rippert 

Graph of the Day: Virginia’s Declining Fertility Rate

Source: StatChat blog

The number of births in Virginia continues declining, reaching the lowest level in years in 2017 — only 100,248. A decade before, births had numbered 108,884.

Demographers Savannah Quick and Shonel Sen at the Demographics Research Group at the University of Virginia attribute the overall dip in fertility decline to a dramatic decline for 15- to 19-year-olds and 20- to 24-year-olds and a slight increase for 30- to 24-year-olds and 35- to 39-year-olds. In other words, many women are postponing childbirth, not choosing not to have children.

This is a classic good news/bad news story. The good news is that more women are taking control of their fertility in order to pursue education and improve their job prospects before having a child. Modern-day child-raising is an exhausting, all-consuming activity. It is all but impossible for women to hold down a full-time job, raise a child (or children), and continue their education — especially if there’s no father in the picture. The persistence of poverty in a society characterized by abundant avenues for upward mobility is, at its heart, a demographic issue. If lower-income women are having fewer children, fewer children will be raised in poverty.

The bad news is that the United States needs more citizens to enter the workforce and pay payroll taxes to help support a Medicare and Social Security system that is careening toward fiscal insolvency. But incremental changes in fertility are unlikely to make much difference. The Medicare and Social Security trust funds will dissipate before children born today can enter the workforce.

Manipulating SOL Scores in Norfolk

If you ever entertained suspicions that statewide gains in Standards of Learning test scores were illusory, news from Norfolk provides more confirmation of your cynicism: In the first year since the district said it stopped pulling struggling students out of classes, reports the Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk has seen a drop in math test scores.

Norfolk administrators told the School Board last week that preliminary results indicate the district’s overall passing rates in high school math fell between 3 and 12 points. In two courses, the passing rates fell below the state’s minimum standards. …

Two years ago, The Pilot’s investigation found staff at all five of the city’s high schools were removing students from courses mid-year if it looked like they would perform poorly on the state tests required for those classes – a practice commonly known as “recycling.” In other cases, students with failing grades were incorrectly marked absent to excuse them from testing.

The practice was common during the 2014-15 school year and continued to a lesser extent into the 2015-16 school year, a state Department of Education investigation found.

This development follows news that the remarkably high pass rates of Richmond’s star elementary school, George W. Carver Elementary, was the result of systematic cheating by teachers administering the tests. Last year, the Virginia Department of Education discovered cheating scandals in Petersburg and Alexandria.

VDOE deserves credit for compelling Norfolk schools to enforce the integrity of the SOL testing regime. But it needs to re-examine previous assertions, based upon statewide aggregation of test scores, that show incremental-but-steady improvement in SOL performance. A  slew of scandals in inner-city school systems calls into question claims that African-American students are making small but consistent gains compared to other racial/ethnic groups.

While the system of public education appears to work reasonably well for whites and Asians, it has failed spectacularly for inner-city African-Americans. Admittedly, educating students drawn disproportionately from low-income families afflicted by absent fathers, chronic financial instability, and child abuse and neglect is a special challenge. The question is: Are these school systems reformable? Or should Virginia be more proactive about  providing alternatives — charter schools and vouchers — that allow African-Americans an escape hatch?

If you’re looking for real institutional racism (as opposed to fabricated racism), it’s staring you in the face.

Charlottesville’s Path to Polarization, Part 1

The Lee Statue in Charlottesville

by Reed Fawell III

This is the first of five posts on the events surrounding the white nationalist protests against efforts to remove the Lee and Jackson statues that occurred in the spring and summer of 2017 in Charlottesville, Va.

America’s national and local media constantly make references to the August 11/12, 2017, white nationalist protest rally in Charlottesville. Typically, these allusions render an over-simplified judgment without facts, nuance, context or perspective. Consequently, the rhetoric inflames public opinion, exacerbates the harm done by the rally, forecloses the possibility of reconciliation, and makes it more difficult to prevent a recurrence in the future.

The media’s short-hand references to “Charlottesville” display a woeful ignorance of the demonstrations and political events in the city during 2016 and 2017 that preceded and influenced the events of August 11/12. Absent that string of events, the outcome of the August 11/12 Unite the Right rally surely would have been very different. Indeed, the event and the violence it engendered might never have taken place.

Fortunately, there is an antidote to our national amnesia — the Final Report, Independent Review of the 2017 Protest Event in Charlottesville written by Timothy J. Heaphy with the Hunton & Williams law firm. Drawing on meticulous research of that report, I hope to shed light on those earlier incidents, discern their underlying causes, and explain how they shaped the events of August 11/12.

Here we will start with a chronology of events leading up to the July 8 and Aug 11/12 protests, taken almost exclusively from the Independent Review. To avoid personalizing the narrative, I have deleted the names of participants.

From March 2016 to June June 2017:
Events Leading up to July 8 and August 12 Disturbances in Charlottesville

In March of 2016, Charlottesville’s Vice Mayor and a University of Virginia professor and chairman of the local NAACP called an “unscheduled rally in Charlottesville.” There the Vice Mayor “expressed distaste for the Lee Statue” and the UVA professor argued that the statute evoked “all the horror and legacy for black people. It romanticizes for people who do not know. They look at that statute, they think it was a gallant person who saved us, but he was a terrorist.” The vice mayor then urged Charlottesville to remove the city’s two statues of Lee and Jackson.

This rally in downtown Charlottesville ignited at virulent controversy. The debate over the future of the statues became “a significant factor in the radicalization” of a local leader who would become a key figure in the later Unite the Right rallies in Charlottesville,” a man who “described himself as an advocate for ‘white civil rights’,” one who “believed that whites were unfairly asked to “apologize for history” and to ‘deny their cultural heritage’.” He was also reportedly angered by the Vice Mayor’s urging the boycott of a UVa lecturer’s restaurant for criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement on his Facebook page. Later, too, based on research turned up by that white nationalist leader, the vice mayor resigned his job at Albemarle high school for having posted “racially offensive and inflammatory statements” on Twitter before he’d moved to Charlottesville in 2011.

Thus, in March of 2016, there began a long series of escalating rhetoric and actions by opposing factions within the Charlottesville community that, over the ensuing 18 months, would cascade into the tragic events of August 11/12, 2017.

For example, on May 28, 2016, the Charlottesville City Council, responding to local pressures, created a Blue Ribbon panel whose designated objective was to provide the Council with options on how to tell “the full story of Charlottesville’s history of race and changing the city’s narrative through its public spaces.” That fall, on Nov. 10, the panel delivered its draft report. It recommended that the Lee and Jackson statues remain in place while adding context to the monuments, telling a fuller story about what they represented. The “draft” report changed in December, however, when the same panel offered one of two options for the Council to consider: that context be added if the statues be left in place, or that they could be removed. On Feb 6, 2017, the City Council by 3-2 vote ordered the removal of the Lee statue.

The council’s vote sparked a lawsuit in March 2017 claiming that removing the statue would be illegal, and that the city was required by law “to protect and preserve” the statues. The Court affirmed the plaintiffs’ request to stay the City Council’s order. That litigation on the merits of the case continues unresolved today, although the court did affirm the city’s right to change the names of Lee and Jackson Park.

Meanwhile, on Jan. 31, 2016, Charlottesville’s mayor called “an unscheduled” rally to protest the inauguration of President Trump. “Hundreds gathered in Charlottesville’s downtown mall” where the mayor proclaimed the city “The Capital of Resistance to Trump’s agenda.” A Charlottesville police officer later noted that in his view: “The mayor’s event was tantamount to war. The mayor’s rhetoric was ‘the recipe for undermining the legitimacy of the institutions of government’.” Continue reading