A raucous and verbally violent June 21 “Defund the Police” rally in Downtown Charlottesville, left nearly $20,000 of spray paint damage in its wake.
On June 25, an outraged public was partially relieved when Charlottesville Police Chief, Dr. Rashall Brackney, announced that four individuals had been charged with vandalism:
In response to nationwide, regional, and local rallies and marches, the Charlottesville Police Department has been publicly supportive and understanding of the pain and outrage being felt across the nation following the deaths of so many unarmed Black men and women at the hands of police.
We’ve acknowledged and held up the efforts of our community leaders as a national model. However, the peaceful efforts of so many in this community were overshadowed and undermined by the criminal actions of a few.
This past Sunday, a large gathering assembled at the Freedom of Speech Wall, and then proceeded to march on the Downtown Mall, and towards Market Street. While most of this event remained peaceful, several individuals chose to engage in unacceptable and criminal behavior.
This included harassing and attempts to shame individuals who were trying to enjoy a Fathers’ Day meal on the Mall with their families. The group then blocked off Market Street in front of the Charlottesville Police Department, for more than an hour vandalizing the streets and the sidewalks with cruel, threatening, and hate filled language at the entrance of the courts and police station, where, unfortunately, every officer, civilian employees, maintenance, and janitorial team members who came into work had to endure.
In response, on Monday morning, Charlottesville Public Works teams were mobilized to quickly remove the vandalism by power washing, sealing, and repainting the street. Unfortunately, this is a temporary fix as Public Works will also have to repave that section of Market Street, costing the taxpayers upwards of $20,000.
As a result of these criminal actions, the Charlottesville Police Department, with support of the Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, launched a full investigation into identifying those individuals who chose to engage in criminal behavior. Four individuals have been charged with Vandalism in violation of Virginia State Code 18. 2-137, a Class 1 Misdemeanor. Class 1 Misdemeanors are punished by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
However, we are not finished. The Charlottesville Police Department is also in the process of identifying other individuals, and the incident remains under investigation.
As public safety professionals, we acknowledge the necessity of spontaneous reactions to newsworthy events, and have consistently provided safe venues to allow our community to peacefully express their pain, grief and outrage. More specifically, this department has worked tirelessly, over the past few months to keep this community safe and healthy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, other public safety issues and the costly demonstrations that have unfolded over the last month.
Our officers come into work with the goals of keeping this community safe and a commitment to deliver “Service Beyond the Call.” We will continue to prioritize the public’s health and safety, but criminal actions that deface public spaces or put the safety of others at risk cannot be tolerated.
Charlottesville—locally and nationally, politicians, power structures, and law enforcement agencies have heard your cries for authentic reform, but reform cannot occur if we do not work together as a community to create the co-production of public safety that we all long for.
During this time, we ask every member in this community to engage in civil discourse, without causing unnecessary pain and allowing detractors to co-op the message, and manner by which reform can and will be achieved.
In the weeks that have followed Dr. Brackney’s statement, the story has grown cold and there have been no updates.
An inquiry to the Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office confirmed that there had been only one arrest, and that the other three publicly unidentified suspects remain at-large. Despite a claimed “ongoing investigation,” no further charges have been disclosed.
While much of this event was caught on video and is available to investigators, efforts to engage the public in the identification process (as was done post-Unite-the-Right), has been non-existent.