With the second anniversary of the deadly Unite the Right less than two weeks away, Charlottesville officials are anticipating more calm over the second weekend in August than last year.
During a question and answer session on Wednesday, Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall M. Brackney said the approach to policing this year is “a very nimble, very soft presence,” similar to what was done while the University of Virginia men’s basketball team won the NCAA Tournament in Minneapolis this past spring.
“You’ll see lots of officers on bicycles, on foot and on motorcycles so that they can interact with you in a very meaningful, in a very personal way, and encouraging people to participate in the Unity Day events,” she said.
At this point, the only anticipated street closures Aug. 9-12 will be the Fourth Street and Second Street crossings of the Downtown Mall, and First Street, Second Street and Jefferson Street around Market Street Park. Market Street itself will remain open, officials said.
Events for Aug. 10-12 include:
Quaker Worship Service at Market Street Park, 9 a.m. Aug. 10;
C’ville Resonates brass ensemble at Market Street Park, 11 a.m. Aug. 10;
Interactive art projects at Central Place on the Downtown Mall, noon to 6 p.m. Aug. 10;
C’ville Sing Out at the Sprint Pavilion, 4 to 6 p.m. Aug. 10;
Call to Action Resource Fair at Market Street Park, 1 to 5 p.m. Aug. 11; and
Interfaith service at First Baptist Church on West Main Street, 7 p.m. Aug. 12.
Friday’s After Five at the Sprint Pavilion and the Saturday morning City Market will operate as normal. In 2018, states of emergency were declared for the city and the state of Virginia ahead of the weekend. Much of the downtown area was restricted, with access only at two checkpoints south of the Downtown Mall, and many items were banned from the area.
That year, Brackney said police would not search bags unless they thought someone was attempting to bring a prohibited item into the perimeter, but officers routinely checked everyone’s bags when they went through a checkpoint.
Brackney said there is nothing officials are seeing this year that “will put us in that state,” the city will not have to set up perimeters and “there should not be any additional screenings.”
“There are also, at all times, the type of enforcement of illegal activities that would occur if this was not a special event, but there’s no additional screening processes,” she said.
City spokesman Brian Wheeler said private events at the Sprint Pavilion will have a check-in process as they normally would.
Officials will operate under a unified command, Brackney said, as they did in 2018. She would not specify how many state troopers are expected to be in the area.
Throughout the last few months, 19 community members on the Unity Days Action Committee have been planning events for the anniversary weekend, and throughout the late spring and summer of 2019.
Earlier this year, the city voted to establish Unity Days, and is reserving downtown parks for annual activities and barring any other events in those locations during future weekends around Aug. 12.
The City Council also appropriated $100,000 for the planning and marketing of Unity Days.
Activist Don Gathers, who is a member of the action committee, said the committee and the community felt it was imperative to reclaim the space in Market Street Park for some of the events.
“We were very particular about the events that go in there and what they would represent and how they would look to the community,” he said.
Gathers asked if they police knew of any direct threats or if there were things the community needs to be aware of for that weekend.
Brackney said last year the city had reached out to vulnerable populations or those who had been targeted online or through other means.
“We have not experienced that ... but if there were any populations that were in danger, we would have definitely pushed that out to those groups by now and they would have been informed,” she said.
A second public safety preparation Q&A session will take place at 6 p.m. Aug. 7 at CitySpace.
The complete calendar of activities and additional event details are available at charlottesville.org/ unitydays.