Why Charlottesville Was A National Security Disaster

Update –August 27, 2017: Two stories in the Richmond Times Dispatch strongly reinforce my analysis about what happened in Charlottesville and who bears primary responsibility –namely the Mayor of Charlottesville and Virginia’s Governor. The Mayor is trying to blame the mess on the Chief of Police and the Governor and not taking responsibility for the disaster.  He should resign.  So too should the Governor, as well as the Police Chief and probably the City Manager (depending on the outcome of the investigation ordered by the Charlottesville City Council, who also want to know why a crucial roadway was open to traffic and why no help was given to a synagogue under Nazi-KKK siege).  None of these excuses will stand up to scrutiny and all these guys are doing is trying to blame each other for the massive failure.  Furthermore the latest statement by President Trump’s Financial Advisor Gary Cohn strongly undermines Trump’s efforts to allay the blame on him during his Arizona-Phoenix rally.
In Charlottesville the Mayor does not directly control the police who are under the responsibility of the City Manager.  Having acknowledged the unusual set up, the Mayor cannot escape responsibility for the overall mess.  But the City Manager and Police Chief did not perform in a satisfactory manner.  There are reports that the Police backed off when they realized they were losing control, again raising questions about how they were commanded and, of course why the Mayor did not ask the Governor for proper reinforcements well before the events unfolded.  While we have allowed less than adequate public officials more latitude then they deserve, this is a case where most if not all of them either should resign or be fired.

Update: August 30, 2017.   From Politico: “The Department of Homeland Security issued a confidential warning to law enforcement authorities three days before the deadly Aug. 12 Charlottesville protest rally, saying that an escalating series of clashes had created a powder keg that would likely make the event “among the most violent to date” between white supremacists and anarchists.“The “law enforcement sensitive” assessment, obtained by POLITICO and reported for the first time, raises questions about whether Charlottesville city and Virginia state authorities dropped the ball before, and during, a public event that was widely expected to draw huge crowds of armed, emotional and antagonistic participants from around the country.”  This new evidence significantly strengthens the arguments I advanced on this matter just a day after the event.  As I have been saying, the Governor, Mayor and other officials should resign or be investigated and then fired.

by Stephen Bryen

Charlottesville was a national security disaster because its end result was to encourage American Nazis and KKK adherents to step up their attacks on American democracy, especially against Blacks and Jews whom they disproportionately hate.  A case in point is what happened at the Charlottesville Reform Synagogue where the Nazis and “Klaners” threatened to burn the synagogue to the ground and put armed threats just across the street from the main synagogue entrance during Sabbath (Shabbat) services.  When the Synagogue appealed to the city for help, it got none.

In fact, the security failure in Charlottesville was a massive one.  At blame are both the local and state police, but more certainly the city Mayor and the Governor of Virginia, who made incredible blunders in dealing with a rapidly evolving and well advertised threat to the security of the people gathered in that city.

To begin with the police presence was way too small.  The local police were no match at all for the potential wave of dissonance and violence; the state police did a lousy job and sometimes failed entirely –for example by not blocking vehicles from areas where the crowds were located, ending in a ferocious attack by auto and the death of a young woman and many injuries.  The Governor totally failed because he should have had the National Guard there as a preventive measure from the start.  His ignorance of the threat is mind boggling.

The police made a number of blunders, making matters worse.  Not only did they fail to block all vehicular traffic excepting emergency vehicles and police cruisers, they did not properly separate the protesters.  These groups should have been channeled well away from each other.  Nor did the police disarm the protesters, making violence a total certainty.  Both steps could have been accomplished had there been sufficient police or Guard manpower presence.  Perhaps one can be sympathetic to the local police that did not stand a chance with an outbreak of protest and violence on the scale seen, but what about the Mayor?  Why didn’t the Mayor demand the presence of the National Guard and a tough show of force?  There is no excuse for the lack of action in this regard.

Most of the worst in Charlottesville happened before the President of the United States took a bad situation and figured out how to make it much worse.  He is still at it.  Mr. Trump might have been a good President, but he has made hamburger of any moral authority a strong President could use to condemn Nazism and hate-mongering.  He had nothing to say about the anti-Black and anti-Jewish threats being made, far more significant than some odious Confederate war monuments we can live without.  But the President was seized, and still is with the notion that the statues and monuments are what matters.  It is hard to explain:  it is a mental problem that has to be concerning to any fair minded American.


Confederate Statue in Statesboro, Georgia

What happened in Charlottesville is not the last but only the beginning of a wave of violence that must be stopped before it grows beyond control.  The overall incompetence in Charlottesville, the blunders of the Mayor, Governor and the President bode ill for the future.

Churches and synagogues, especially Black Churches need to reinforce their security which means a combination of professional guards and congregational volunteers to protect the premises, including hours when the church or synagogue is not under active use.  Dialogue with the local police is important, but local police resources are often far from adequate.  Organizations that might have received threats should do the same as churches and synagogues and make sure their offices and even key personnel are protected. Most of all anyone who might be targeted by these thugs needs to be especially careful about personal security.  This means operating in pairs or small groups and being careful not to be isolated and alone.  By all means carry a cellular phone and put an app on it that instantly dials 911.

Attacks on Americans because of their faith, race or political beliefs is a threat to democracy and to our Republic.  These attacks are a national security threat.  Maybe our President and others will finally figure this out.