Is Charlottesville Governable?

Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney. Good luck, you’re going to need it.

The city of Charlottesville arguably has the most left-wing city council of any local government in Virginia. Some of the local left’s fixations are harmless. Advancing the goals of energy efficiency and renewable power in the cause of combating climate change may or may not represent a good return on investment of public dollars, but at least the results — incremental improvements to the environment — are benign. However, the implementation of progressive doctrine can have pernicious effects in such areas as K-12 schools and public safety.

Public safety has become a polarizing flash point in the aftermath of the Unite the Right rally a year ago. Local leftists declared the racist rhetoric of assorted Nazis and Klansmen so heinous that they forfeited the freedom of speech and assembly. Ned Oliver with the Virginia Mercury describes how the debate rages still:

Anti-racist activists in Charlottesville say they’re fed up with calls for civility as groups peddling violent hate speech cloak their rallies in the constitutional rhetoric of free speech, often framing their gatherings literally as “free speech rallies” rather than letting the speech itself — support for the KKK for instance — serve as the headliner.

And a year later, Charlottesville residents remain outraged that the city granted white supremacist groups a permit to hold their infamous Aug. 12 rally in the city.

It’s not surprising in such an environment that law enforcement has become highly politicized. Former Police Chief Alfred S. Thomas Jr. lost his job after a July rally last year in which the police tear gassed rioting leftists and then the August rally in which Charlottesville police allowed leftist and rightest demonstrators to clash violently. After an interim chief served briefly, RaShall M. Brackney, a black woman, has been appointed to run the department.

I know nothing about Ms. Brackney’s professional background or philosophy of law enforcement, but she will not have an easy job. She will be contending with a leftist movement, emboldened and radicalized by the United the Right rally, that deems much of what Charlottesville police officers do as illegitimate. The city has created a Police Civilian Review Board. One sign of things to come: According to this Daily Progress article, progressives are targeting what one defense attorney describes as the department’s stop-and-frisk policy. The broader Black Lives Matter agenda likely will receive full consideration.

Ms. Brackney speaks optimistically of how the police will forge bonds with the community. “In Charlottesville, we have the opportunity to implement best practices and shape the narrative for police-community relations,” she said. “In order to do so, we must collectively define what does a healthy relationship look like between law enforcement professionals and the communities we serve. We then need to identify pathways moving forward to achieve those goals and finally build on successful outcomes.”

My question: Is the left interested in civility and better police-community relations, or will it work to inflame minorities’ sense of grievance and injustice as a way to advance their radical agenda? Without a sense of continual outrage, the left has nothing to offer. I worry that the leftists will continually “move the goalposts” until the police are so bound and handcuffed that the city becomes ungovernable. Moderate liberals (there are virtually no conservatives to speak of in the city) will have to push back. If they don’t, Charlottesville will become synonymous not  only with racial confrontation but anarchy.

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8 responses to “Is Charlottesville Governable?”

  1. Long time listener, first time caller.

    This is quite a broad generalization on about 50,000 people. The most conservative large city in America, Oklahoma City, has a police citizen review board. If anything this shows the maturation of the city. If you can’t tell, I live in Charlottesville. And I’ve lived in several cities throughout my life. Many have been far more liberal than this one. Perhaps you are confusing opened mindedness, and defense of civil liberties for left of center politics.

  2. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    They are having fun on several fronts in C-ville. Looking from a distance, perhaps reaching unfair conclusions, “ungovernable” may prove the right word based on the chemistry within this City Council.

  3. Typically mayors tout their cities, even as they acknowledge issues exist, but the new mayor pretty much had nothing positive about C-ville in this interview.

  4. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Here are the feelings of a few Charlottesville residents, as well as their state and local government, in anticipation of this coming summer’s weekend in the town and Grounds of UVA, courtesy of the Daily Progress newspaper :

    “Police have said they will confiscate any banned items.

    An estimated 700 Virginia State Police personnel are expected to join more than a hundred local police and up to 300 Virginia National Guardsmen are in the area or ready to be mobilized.

    That worries activists.

    “Last year, I was terrified of violence from the Nazis, and this year I am terrified of violence from the police,” said Lisa Woolfork, associate professor of English at the University of Virginia and an organizer with Black Lives Matter Charlottesville.

    “We are seeing an overwhelming show of force to compensate for last year’s negligent police inaction,” she said. “For black and brown folks and other marginalized people, we know this police presence only increases our risk.”

    “This state of emergency is an over-compensation for the failures of the state last year,” said the Rev. Brittany Caine-Conley, an organizer with Congregate Cville. “We know, statistically, historically and anecdotally, that state repression and violence overwhelmingly affect marginalized communities. This militarized landscape will only do more harm to those who have been most significantly wounded in the past year.”

    Although white supremacist organizations have not officially scheduled any events in the area, police and activists have expressed concerns that some may show up on the anniversary.

    Throughout the day on Thursday, reports surfaced from concerned citizens who believed they saw persons resembling Nazis and white supremacists in locations from office supply stores to coffee shops.

    The possibility of clashes between organized counter-protesters and white supremacists spurred Charlottesville, Albemarle County and state officials to declare states of emergency on Wednesday and authorized police to restrict access to 18 blocks of downtown Charlottesville.

    In declaring its state of emergency, Albemarle County is closing …”

    For more on today’s Charlottesville see the entire article found at:

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” This is quite a broad generalization on about 50,000 people.”

    do tell… but business as usual in BR some days!

    Take a look at Richmond and their machinations with regard to this.. are they also “leftists”? Other cities?

    No one is taking away the right wing idiots free speech or right to assembly … by the way – they are free to do those things – and so are those that oppose them… the question at that point is how to handle it – and yes Cville screwed it up…because , in part, they had never confronted that situation.

    Calling them “leftists” advances no intelligent dialogue – just reveals something about the person(s) making such comments.

    The simple question is what does any city do when to opposing factions want to exercise their free speech rights and right to assembly without conflict and violence.

    Nope… that’s not a “leftist” issue except to those who have a little problem understanding the issues and are predisposed to politicizing at every opportunity.

  6. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    so what if Charlottesville is “liberal?” In many ways it is a more attractive place than the typical, Republican-controlled, free market, white suburbs that have run amok with pro-development planning policies and all the ill that sprawl entails. Look at the white ‘burbs of any big Virginia city. I know. I live inone. Thank God there are progressive and diverse places like C’Ville.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      While I agree with comment about “so what if Charlottesville is liberal” I have to quibble with your comparison to (supposedly) white burbs. The City of Charlottesville is 69.1% white while the County of Fairfax is 62.68% white. Arlington is 63.8% white. Henrico County is 61.3% white. Charlottesville is “whiter” than a whole lot of supposedly white ‘burbs. Meanwhile, the county surrounding the City of Charlottesville – Albemarle – is over 80% white.

      Moreover, the city of Charlottesville comprises a whopping 10.3 sq mi. If you want to compare the City of Charlottesville to other places in Virginia I’d think that towns like Vienna or small cities like Lynchburg or Roanoke would be a lot more realistic.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Not sure why we’d be comparing them … for how “liberal” they are ?


        Geeze – most prosperous urban places are, in fact, “Liberal”. There are very few prosperous urban places that are “Conservative” and governed with the “principals” that most Conservatives today espouse…

        But we digress! Asking if Charlottesville is “governable” is just another right-wing parable about “liberalism”… which often starts off with something like this: ” The city of Charlottesville arguably has the most left-wing city council of any local government in Virginia. Some of the local left’s fixations are harmless”

        Most urban places are much more inclusive of diverse populations of people – it’s a hallmark of urban places in general – and yes there are issues to be confronted but those issues – Conservatives answers to those issues are laughable… and simply not practiced in virtually no urban places on the planet.

        That don’t keep the Conservatives from repeating over and over their “beliefs” even if they don’t match up with any reality on earth. It’s what they believe – and when you believe that way , places like Charlottesville are “ungovernable”… messes… sure enough!

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