On Monday, Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas spoke to the media about the violence that erupted in his city over the weekend at the “Unite the Right” rally. The violence left one woman dead and several others severely wounded. Two police troopers also died in a helicopter crash just outside the city.
Police have been criticized for their handing of the rally — a report by ProPublica declared that “police stood by as mayhem mounted in Charlottesville.” But Chief Thomas pushed back on those allegations, saying “we did make attempts to keep the two sides separate … we had agreements and worked out a security plan to bring groups in separate entrances. They decided to change the plan.”
He continued, “we were hoping for a peaceful event. We urged leaders from both sides to engage in a nonviolent demonstration.”
When asked about the well-armed militias that attended the rally, Thomas said “we were not intimidated by the firepower of the alt-right.”
In a humbling moment, he admitted “absolutely I have regrets. We lost three lives this weekend … it was a tragic, tragic weekend.” Thomas claimed that his officers did not deploy tear gas but that some state police troopers did use pepper spray. He ended the press conference abruptly after denying reports that police were told to stand down.
Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe has also defended the actions of the police, saying in church on Sunday, “not one single shot was fired, with all these people with weapons. No property damage. They kept us safe.”
Charlottesville’s mayor, Michael Signer, also supported his officers and the state police; when Chris Cuomo of New Day pointed to the “anemic” response of police, the mayor shot back “I think that’s completely mistaken.”