‘Gross Insult’: White Supremacists Hijack Charlottesville Council Meeting Calling for Race War In City Where Unite the Fight Rally Was Held

Elected officials in Charlottesville, the Virginia city that was the scene of the infamous Unite the Right rally in 2017, have decided to suspend virtual public comments during City Council meetings. 

The decision comes after white supremacists and anti-Semites crashed the Zoom stream used for the public meeting and called for a race war.

Now, if anyone wants to voice a concern or opinion during such meetings, they will have to attend in person.

Charlottesville City Hall (Photo: Facebook/ City of Charlottesville)

Mayor Lloyd Snook said that officials “struggled” to come up with constitutionally viable solutions to stop the offensive commentary, including some remarks espousing conspiracy theories. However, unanimously the council voted 4-0 (with one member, Leah Puryear, being absent) to mute the remote comment options.

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“We struggled for a while in trying to figure out what we could constitutionally do and concluded there was not really a good answer,” Snook said to the Daily Progress.

The issue at the core of their discussion was whether suspending remote users’ ability to comment virtually violates anyone’s First Amendment speech rights.

“Do we listen to everybody as they’re ranting, knowing that if they were there in person, they probably wouldn’t do it but feel free to do it anonymously online, while still having a distinct impact on the people listening?” Snook added.

Council member Brian Pinkston said he and his colleagues made a “judgment call” that considered what was best for the care of the community, blocking language in the public square that could be deeply hurtful.

“The gross insult” to community members was unacceptable, “even under the broadest interpretation of the First Amendment,” City attorney Jacob StromanStroman told Snook.

The elected official noted that while the council wanted to show it clearly values the public’s input and their desire to participate remotely, it had a responsibility to safeguard the community from behavior that is not only offensive but harms other attendees.

The decision was prompted by an incident at a Monday, Oct. 2, council meeting when white supremacists disrupted the public meeting by celebrating Adolf Hitler, using racist slurs, and advocating for genocide while hiding themselves on Zoom by using fake names and profile pictures.

One of the voices with the vile commentary asserted that his constitutional right to freedom of speech was being challenged.

The city attorney Jacob Stroman stepped in and said that their comments were a “gross insult” to those gathered and were unacceptable “even under the broadest interpretation of the First Amendment.”

Charlottesville made headlines six years ago an epicenter of racial tension. In August 2017, white nationalists stormed the city’s streets with the intention to terrorize people by walking on a college campus with flaming tiki torches and chanting white nationalist slogans.

The demonstrators included neo-Nazis, alt-right, and white supremacists, who all marched on the campus of the University of Virginia and chanted things like “Jews will not replace us,” “You will not replace us” and “Blood and soil,” a phrase used by Nazis. The rally had been organized in response to city officials announcing plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a city park.

“There are so many people in our community … who were there on August 11 who were terrorized by torch-wielding terrorists,” said James Hingeley, the commonwealth attorney for Albemarle County, according to CNN, “There’s a law, a burning objects law, that says they can be prosecuted but our prosecutor’s not doing that.”

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In April 2023, three people were indicted on charges of burning an object with the “intent to intimidate,” and one person was charged with the malicious release of a chemical irritant such as tear gas on that day.

The rally was followed the next day by the Unite the Right rally in the city’s downtown area.

During a counter-protest against the gathering of white nationalist and right-wing groups, a car drove into the crowd, killing Heather Heyer, one of the counter-protestors.

Additionally, 19 other individuals sustained injuries as driver James Alex Fields Jr. plowing into the crowd. The Ohio man subsequently pleaded guilty to murder and federal hate crime charges.

Read the original story here.

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