At least one person is dead and 19 others injured when a driver plowed through a group of peaceful protestors leaving a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia Saturday.
Tensions are high this weekend as white nationalists rally in the city and a slew of anti-protestors followed.
Former Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness and law enforcement expert helped explain what first responders are dealing with.
Similar to the neo-Nazi rally at the California state Capitol in 2016, the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville was well advertised to boost attendance from both sides, McGinness said.
“I think you have a lot of the same ingredients in each of these cases,” McGinness said.
The events began as offensive but lawful demonstrations protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, Virginia’s Governor’s declaration of a state of emergency allows the government to temporarily restrict entrance and presence in the area in the event of a crime such as car that drove through the crowd.
“I think you have what started out as offensive conduct certainly, based on the ideology based on those who first showed up, nonetheless protected by their right to assemble and express themselves,” McGinness said.
Law enforcement must balance the public’s right to their first amendment rights with maintain peace, McGinness said. Often times the public misunderstands the role of police in these situation, which McGiness explained must be objective no matter how heinous the speech, as long that speech doesn’t’ become threatening.
In the coming days, law enforcement will need to remain vigilant in maintaining peace as unrest could continue in the coming days, McGinness said.