CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The Charlottesville chief of police denied Monday that cops were ordered to “stand down,” or not intervene by making arrests during the violent clashes that led to the death of an anti-racist protester.
Chief Al Thomas said it was “simply not true,” reported the New York Post. He then abruptly ended a televised news conference.
Thomas said white-nationalist demonstrators didn’t follow a plan to enter through the rear of Emancipation Park, leading to confrontations with counter-protesters and people “throwing objects and spraying chemical agents.”
As a result, Thomas said uniformed cops had to change into “protective gear”‘ before clearing out the park, which sparked “disturbances throughout the downtown area” that weren’t quelled for about an hour.
“It was certainly a challenge. We were spread thin once the crowds dispersed,” he said.
Asked who was to blame for violence, Thomas said: “This was an alt-right rally. We did have mutually combative individuals in the crowd.”
Asked if he regretted not having his cops in riot gear before the planned rally, Thomas didn’t answer the question directly and only spoke about the three people who died.
“Absolutely, I have regrets. We lost three lives this weekend. I certainly have regrets,” Thomas said.
Counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed when a man described as a “Nazi fanatic,” James Alex Fields, rammed his car into the crowd. His actions injured 19 others. Moreover, state police Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates also died in a helicopter crash while patrolling overhead.
Thomas said cops were “still receiving reports of assaults and additional crimes” that took place over the weekend, and had set up a hotline for people to provide information.