Charlottesville council meeting goes off the rails as angry residents take over

A Charlottesville City Council meeting spiraled into chaos as angry residents unloaded on city officials in the wake of last week’s deadly rally.

The Council met for the first time since the “Unite the Right” rally which turned deadly as white supremacists and Antifa groups clashed in a small Virginia park, leading to the death of Heather Heyer who was killed when a car was driven into a crowd of counter-protesters.

Monday’s meeting began normally but erupted when the rally was mentioned, as residents shouted down the mayor and City Council members and complained about the city’s response to the event, the New York Times reported.

Police forcibly removed three people, who were issued summonses and charged with disorderly conduct. But that only angered the crowd of about 100 who launched into chants of “Shame” and “Shut it down!”

“I’m outraged!”Tracy Saxon said. “I watched my people get beat and murdered. They let Nazis in here have freedom of speech, and they protect them? And we can’t have freedom of speech?”

As council members and the mayor left the room, two people mounted the dais and unfurled a banner declaring, “Blood on your hands!” The crowd took over the Council chambers for about 30 minutes, until officials promised to release those who were taken out and allow the residents to be heard.

The Council agreed to have a third-party review Charlottesville’s planning and response to the rally and voted unanimously to begin steps to remove a statue of the Confederate general Stonewall Jackson from the city. The decision by city officials earlier this year to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee was what prompted the rally in the first place.

Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy remained with residents at the meeting, negotiating to restore order by promising each person one minute to speak. Bellamy, the only African-American member of the Council, voted to strip the city of Lee’s statue earlier this year.

Monday’s meeting then stretched to more than four hours as residents unleashed a torrent of criticism against the city officials for what they viewed as a botched response to the violence that erupted at the rally. Many also blasted the Council for allowing the rally to even take place, though Mayor Mike Signer explained a federal judge had ruled in favor of the protest despite the objections of the Council.

“We tried really hard,” Signer said. “A federal judge forced us to have that rally downtown.”

The crowd was not satisfied with the mayor’s comments and many demanded his resignation.

In a unanimous vote, the City Council decided to drape the statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in black in mourning, the Times reported.

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