“Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?,” Casey Stengel
A fellow named Jason Kessler obtained a permit to hold a rally protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a Charlottesville, Va park. Citing the obvious constitutional right to hold the rally in public space, the city granted the permit to hold it in that park. Later the city tried to change the rally location to a different park but a federal judge blocked the change in a suit brought by the organizers and the ACLU, allowing the rally to take place in the proper park. Those planning to attend among others were members of the Klu Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. Not the most lovable of people, but if the freedoms of speech and assembly embodied in our Constitution are to have any real meaning, we must protect even the most unpopular. Given these planned attendees, some opposed then planned to show up and counter demonstrate. They too were given permit to assemble and rally but at a different park. This group contained members of the Antifa or “antifascist” groups. Let’s see the Klan, the Nazi and Antifa all in the same city at the same time, what could go wrong? Violence and chaos seems to follow in wake of each.
Given the obvious possibility of trouble, the authorities from the City to the State needed a workable plan to keep things under control. No matter what you think of those rallying to save the statue, they had every right to safely assemble at the park and have their rally. That means counter protestors kept at a distance preventing them from denying those favoring the statue their constitutional rights.
The job of the authorities was plain to see and they should have done their sworn duty. Instead they failed miserably. They knew or should have known who was coming and planned accordingly. Given the strong possibility of violence, needed resources should’ve been in place to quickly prevent anyone from acting in an unlawful manner. No room for things to get out of hand. A bloody melee in the park on rally day between the two groups gave proof the authorities were clueless. Why were the Antifa and their allies even in the park? Their permit was for a different park. Their presence alone infringed on the pro statue people’s rights to free speech and assembly. According to ACLU observers, the police did nothing. Apparently, no one gave the orders to prevent the ensuing battle.