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Home Human Rights The stand down order: Charlottesville PD’s complicity with terror

The stand down order: Charlottesville PD’s complicity with terror

There was a stand down order. The police did nothing. The Sheriff’s Department did nothing. The city council did nothing. They. Let. This. Happen.

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Image credit: Zach D. Roberts
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Note from Zach to readers: So far there has been no statement from the C’Ville Police Dept on De’Andres attack. Monday, I finally spoke with the FBI, thanks to an aggressive social media campaign from Shaun King. I’ll have that story for you Wednesday, so stay tuned.

This needs to be said again, if you haven’t read my piece last week on Charlottesville, or heard any of my many interviews on what I saw there, you need to read this to understand what happened in this previously quiet Virginia town.

There was a stand down order. The police did nothing. The Sheriff’s Department did nothing. The city council did nothing. They. Let. This. Happen.

Heather Heyer is dead. 19 others are either in the hospital or recovering. De’Andre Harris has a broken wrist, metal staples in his head, stitches just above his eye and he left far too much blood in a parking lot…

…That parking lot was next door to the Charlottesville Police Department. You can see the google street view right here.

Google street view
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Officers were nearby, but disinterested in the crime happening feet away. Maybe they couldn’t see the brutal beating happening in the parking lot, but even after, when I went to tell the police on the street that I had witnessed an unbelievable crime and had evidence of it, I was met with blank stares and shrugs of shoulders. Even when I added, that I and others had had a hand gun pulled on us, their apathetic attitude remained. They seemed annoyed even.

I should add that later I discovered that the police don’t just share a sidewalk with this parking lot, it’s where they park their cars. It’s also where the white supremacists parked their cars that day, a place they knew that they would be protected. No scratched doors or broken windows here, and their pro-Trump and anti-Black Lives Matter bumper stickers wouldn’t be noticed.

Image credit: Zach D. Roberts/NationofChange

The malfeasance by the Charlottesville Police Department didn’t end there – or begin there for that matter. After De’Andre was moved by his friends bleeding from the head, with no support provided by the police standing nearby, the physical evidence of the crime was washed away. I witnessed parking garage attendants pouring water over the pool of blood by the parking lot entrance. The blood in the stairwell was still there the next day, though. C’Ville PD who park their cars in that lot were literally walking over the slowly disappearing evidence of a hate crime. They didn’t seem to notice… or care.

The big story of the Charlottesville debacle was, of course, the terror attack (yes, we need to call it that, every single day). The story that I haven’t seen covered in the media was the complete lack of care by the police and other forces on the scene. When I arrived on the scene, the terrorist’s car was long gone, but ambulances were nowhere to be found. Street medics were providing what little care they could with their backpacks of medical supplies. The police stood with one seeming goal – make sure that the press doesn’t take photos. They even initially prevented people who were first responders from actually getting to the injured. Something that must be a crime in itself.

Charlottesville police, with their back literally turned to the suffering, formed a line on either side of their bearcat, essentially an SUV tank. Up from the porthole popped a riot gear clad officer with a grenade launcher for tear gas or smoke canisters (excuse my lack of specific knowledge). The officer took turns pointing it at the injured and then pointing it at the members of the media. Unless the entire Charlottesville police department never received medical training, like every other police force has in the U.S., this was a perplexing, damning decision.

Image credit: Zach D. Roberts/NationofChange

Like the crime scene earlier in the day at the parking lot, no evidence was retrieved. I stuck around the area asking police if anyone was actually working the scene – no takers, silence all around. Again, the job it seemed fell upon the journalists and the counter-protestors.

We all took note of where security cameras were, passed around information, confirmed sources and offered it to the police. Pieces of the car and victims shoes were still on the street long after the police locked down the area.

Image credit: Zach D. Roberts/NationofChange

Meanwhile, as police stood silently providing no help to anyone, the white supremacists that stuck around, started spreading rumors that it was four black men in the car that had drove through the street at high speed.

I asked them how they could know that when the car had already been confirmed to have dark tinted windows. Shrugs. Like the police, they knew nothing but still chatted away.

Image credit: Zach D. Roberts/NationofChange

The next day, at the memorial for Heather and those who were attacked, in between songs and lit candles, there were already questions of how police and the city had allowed so many crimes to happen, all seemingly with no consequences.

Only a handful of people had been arrested. None though, who had committed the attack on De’Andre or any of the other people that I had witnessed being hit, beaten or attacked over the last 24 hours.

The terrorist (whose name I will not repeat) is said to have been part of a group, American Vanguard, that at least one of De’Andre’s attackers were members of.

Image credit: Zach D. Roberts/NationofChange

Just over a week after the weekend that made Charlottesville an international name, the City Council met. it went just about as well as you’d expect. Imagine Orlando had allowed ISIS to have a gathering in their town square and then go for a march around with flags and weapons… and SHOCK! Something had gone wrong.

Well, that’s how C’ville’s citizens reacted to the city council last night. People’s responses went from asking for an independent investigation into how all this happened to simply yelling rage that their elected leaders and officers of the law who allowed so many crimes to happen under the guise of a permit.

“At best you’re useless, at worst you’re responsible.”

Just skip around this video that the local paper live streamed Monday night and you’ll get a feeling of the rage, the sadness and the confusion from folks that used to live in a town known for being near Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, but now is known as a place where Nazi’s and white supremacists marched freely down their roads, beating residents with clubs and then leaving town without a warrant or a wanted poster with their faces on it.

 

The weekend hate came to town was a stark reminder for a lot of African American people who lived through the 50’s and 60’s. The KKK in white robes driving down their road with crosses and torches, no other intention but to put fear in the black folk’s eyes.

50 years later, the torches were still there, now purchased from Home Depot and smelling of citronella. The white robes there too, now replaced with red Make America Great Again hats.

Image credit: Zach D. Roberts/NationofChange



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Zach D. Roberts
Zach D. Roberts is a photo/video journalist whose work has been published in the Observer, The Guardian Online, TheNation.com, Al Jazeera America and many more. Zach is currently working with Greg Palast on a full length documentary called The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and is cohost of the Around the Lens Podcast.

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