According to a bombshell new 220-page report, Charlottesville police chief Al Thomas ordered police to stand down at the “Unite the Right” rally in August because he said it would “make it easier to declare an unlawful assembly.”
“Let them fight.” That directive from the police chief as the violence started to unfold was only part of the massive failure of the response to the “Unite the Right rally” in Charlottesville, according to a searing 220-page report by an independent review team released Friday.
[…]Virginia State Police were told that their job was to protect Emancipation Park, where the statue of Robert E. Lee was located. Charlottesville officers were told that they were only to “intervene in serious violence, violence where someone would be seriously hurt or killed,” Heaphy said.
When things began to escalate, with white supremacist groups openly clashing with antifa and other counterprotesters, Charlottesville police leadership responded sluggishly, according to the report.
Upon witnessing the first signs of open violence, Police Chief Al Thomas said “Let them fight, it will make it easier to declare an unlawful assembly’,” according to his personal assistant’s account to investigators. Thomas didn’t recall making that statement but did concede he wanted to wait to see how things played out. “Regardless of what he said, Chief Thomas’ slow-footed response to violence put the safety of all at risk and created indelible images of this chaotic event,” the report states.
It wasn’t until more than 40 minutes after those first signs of violence that an unlawful assembly was declared, at around 11 a.m. Other delays were due in part to the fact that officers didn’t have their riot gear on hand, which they would need to disperse protesters from the park. “When the CPD officers arrived at the supply trailer, they had to fish through plastic bins to find their gear, which included gas masks, riot shields, and ballistic helmets,” the report stated. “For many of them, it was the first time they had ever worn this equipment.” The line commanders were also unable to locate all their bullhorns, which they needed to clear the area. Other hold-ups included poor communication with Virginia State Police, who were trying to extract their undercover agents from the fray in the park before Charlottesville riot police moved in.
If you search “Charlottesville police stand down” on Google as of today, the top two results are “fact checkers” proclaiming there was no stand down because the police chief said so and any claim to the contrary is “false.”