The chief of police in Charlottesville, Virginia, announced on Monday he is retiring, following months of criticism and the release earlier this month of an unfavorable independent report focusing on the way he handled the Unite the Right white supremacist rally in August.
During the rally, Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a man plowed his car into a group of counter-protesters. In a statement, Police Chief Alfred Thomas said he "will be forever grateful for having had the opportunity to protect and serve a community I love so dearly." Thomas was made police chief in April 2016.
A 220-page report issued this month found that Thomas and city officials made numerous mistakes, not only on the day of the Unite the Right rally but also in the months leading up to it, NPR reports. His response to the chaos that unfolded was "slow-footed," the report said, and he made officers who spoke to investigators afraid of retaliation. His attorney denied this, as well as claims that he deleted text messages relevant to the investigation. Catherine Garcia
On Tuesday night, Congress sent President Trump a joint resolution that urged him to "speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and white supremacy," and "use all resources available to the president and the president's Cabinet to address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States." The measure, written and introduced by Virginia's entire congressional delegation, was a response to Trump's equivocal statements after the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville and structured as a joint resolution specifically so Trump would have to sign it. He did so on Thursday.
In a brief statement, the White House press secretary's office summarized what the resolution said and noted that Trump signed it. Trump's statement doesn't mention anti-Semitism or white supremacy by name, but conveys that message.
— Mike DeBonis (@mikedebonis) September 15, 2017
On Tuesday night, the House easily passed a bipartisan joint resolution urging President Trump to "speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and white supremacy," and "use all resources available to the president and the president's Cabinet to address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States." The Senate passed the measure by unanimous consent on Monday night, and Congress deliberately structured the measure as a joint resolution so that Trump has to sign it, rather than a simple or concurrent resolution, which expresses the sense of Congress without the president's signature.
The White House declined to say that Trump will sign the resolution, according to Politico's Kyle Cheney, though Congress expects him to.
Asked whether president will sign, WH spox says "No announcements at this time." https://t.co/Scf2yh14AW
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) September 12, 2017
The resolution was negotiated and introduced by Virginia's congressional delegation after Trump equivocated on condemning the white nationalist protesters at a rally in Charlottesville. The measure says that anti-racism protester Heather Heyer's murder was a "domestic terrorist attack," and called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to "investigate thoroughly all acts of violence, intimidation, and domestic terrorism by white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and associated groups" and also "improve the reporting of hate crimes" to the FBI. Peter Weber
On Sunday, Rev. Robert Lee IV told his congregation at Bethany United Church of Christ in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, that he was resigning, and he explained why in a statement on Monday. Lee, a fourth-great-nephew of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, had introduced Susan Bro, the mother of slain Charlottesville anti-racism protester Heather Heyer, at the MTV Video Music Awards a week ago. "My presence at the church as a descendent of Robert E. Lee and an outspoken opponent of white supremacy had already attracted attention, but with my appearance on MTV the media's focus on my church reached an all time high," Lee wrote. He continued:
A faction of church members were concerned about my speech and that I lifted up Black Lives Matter movement, the Women's March, and Heather Heyer as examples of racial justice work. I want to stress that there were many in the congregation who supported my right to free speech, yet were uncomfortable with the attention the church was receiving. The church's reaction was deeply hurtful to me. ... When the church wanted to vote on my tenure, I tendered my resignation. [Rob Lee IV]
In his MTV speech, Lee, 24, had denounced racism as "America's original sin" and said those opposed to white supremacy could find inspiration in "the Black Lives Matter movement, the women who marched in the Women's March in January, and, especially, Heather Heyer, who died fighting for her beliefs."
— MTV Look Different (@LookDifferent) August 30, 2017
Lee had been Bethany United Church of Christ's pastor for just six months, and he said his most important consideration was that the episode not turn into "a distraction from the sacred work of confronting white supremacy in all its forms." You can read his entire statement at Auburn Seminary. Peter Weber
The question of if "some speech isn't worth defending" is dividing members of the American Civil Liberties Union after protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, left one person dead earlier this month, The Associated Press writes. "I won't be a fig leaf for Nazis," tweeted one board member of the ACLU's Virginia branch after resigning:
I just resigned from the ACLU of Virginia board.
What’s legal and what’s right are sometimes different. I won’t be a fig leaf for Nazis.
— Waldo Jaquith (@waldojaquith) August 13, 2017
The ACLU controversially helped convince a judge to allow the march in Charlottesville, which was attended by neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, and white supremacist groups. Virginia's governor, Terry McAuliffe (D), blamed the ACLU for creating a "powder keg" in the city.
Others in the organization have doubled down on the ACLU's longstanding values, AP reports. "If you can't stomach respecting the First Amendment rights of people you despise, you don't work here," said an ACLU associate director, Stacy Sullivan.
In the days just before the Charlottesville march, the ACLU had also controversially sued the Washington, D.C., transit system on behalf of a number of groups and individuals, including alt-right personality Milo Yiannopoulos. "We did not take this decision lightly. We understand the pain caused by Mr. Yiannopoulos' views," the ACLU wrote at the time. "We also understand the principles we seek to defend … that government can't censor our speech just because it doesn't like what we say." Jeva Lange
On Wednesday afternoon, one of the leaders of the white supremacist marches in Charlottesville, Christopher Cantwell, turned himself in to police in Lynchburg, Virginia, and he's being held in the local jail pending transfer to Charlottesville, where he's wanted on two felony counts of illegal use of tear gas and one count of malicious bodily injury with a "caustic substance." Cantwell, 36, was featured prominently in a widely viewed Vice News documentary about the Charlottesville melee — among other things, he says he thinks the murder of anti-racism protester Heather Heyer was justified and backs a white "ethno-state" — and he made a tearful video last week fretting about this possible arrest.
Cantwell said he thought he might face charges due to a photo of him pepper-spraying a man directly in the eyes, but justified that action in interviews, saying he was defending himself. The Vice News documentary has been viewed more than 44 million times. Peter Weber
ESPN pulls announcer Robert Lee from covering Virginia football because his name is too similar to Confederate general's
ESPN is pulling college football announcer Robert Lee from covering a Virginia game this season because his name is only one initial away from being shared with the Confederate general, the New York Daily News reports. While Lee's name might have raised eyebrows in Charlottesville, where violence erupted over protests concerning the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, the announcer is Asian-American and shares "no heritage to the former military leader of the Confederacy," the Daily News reports.
Lee was slated to cover a football game between Virginia and William & Mary when protests broke out in Charlottesville earlier this month. ESPN said in a statement that the decision was made due to "the reasonable possibility that because of [Lee's] name, he would be subjected to memes and jokes and who knows what else." The statement went on to say: "No politically correct efforts. No race issues. Just trying to be supportive of a young guy who felt it best to avoid the potential zoo." Jeva Lange
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley had a "personal conversation" with President Trump about how he handled the aftermath of Charlottesville, Politico reports.
Both Republicans and Democrats skewered the president for blaming "both sides" for the violence that erupted out of a neo-Confederate, white nationalist rally. Haley told CNN on Tuesday that afterward, she "had a personal conversation with the president about Charlottesville, and I will leave it at that." She added to Good Morning America that the conversation "was taken very well."
Haley was serving as governor of South Carolina in 2015 when a gunman killed nine people at a historically black church in Charleston. Five days later, she called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the Capitol in a speech that acknowledged that "people were driving by and [feeling] hurt and pain. No one should feel pain.”
Trump, however, has defended Confederate monuments, claiming: "This week it's Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really have to ask yourself, where does it stop?"
Haley says Trump has "clarified" his stance "so that no one can question that he's opposed to bigotry and hate in this country." Jeva Lange
Nikki Haley on Charlottesville: “There is no room for hate in this country… our country is founded on so much more than that.” pic.twitter.com/rb3m3MpLex
— CNN (@CNN) August 22, 2017