Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) on Sunday defended police officers who responded to violence during a protest organized by far right groupsin Charlottesville, Va. the day before.
The Democratic governor said law enforcement authorities had done “great work” in “a very delicate situation,” in comments reported by The New York Times.
His response follows the protest organizer claiming the alt-right protesters involved sought a peaceful rally. Jason Kessler put the blame on law enforcement for the violence that overtook a protest against government removal of a Confederate statue on Saturday. The protesters clashed with counter protesters, leading the governor to declare a state of emergency before the rally even started on Saturday.
McAuliffe said the police estimated 80 percent of those in attendance – both the white supremacy and counter protesters groups – were likely armed “yet not a shot was fired.”
“It’s easy to criticize, but I can tell you this, 80 percent of the people here had semiautomatic weapons,” he told the newspaper, shortly after meeting with law enforcement officials.
“And yet not a shot was fired, zero property damage,” he said.
McAuliffe said the death of Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old woman who died after a driver plowed his car into a crowd of counter protesters, was an unpreventable attack.
“You can’t stop some crazy guy who came here from Ohio and used his car as a weapon,” McAuliffe said. “He is a terrorist.”
Kessler, in a press conference set up earlier in the day, said law enforcement officials “exacerbated the violence” by failing to separate groups who opposed one another at the rally.
He called them “under-equipped for the situation.”
“The blame for today’s violence is primarily the result of the Charlottesville government officials and the law enforcement officers which failed to maintain law and order by protecting the First Amendment rights of the participates of the ‘Unite…