UVA Soft on Nazis but Brutal to Students?

White supremacists carry tiki torches in 2017 march through Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village. Photo credit: Salon.com.

by James A. Bacon

A continuing meme in the ongoing rhetorical battle between leftists and anarchists on the one hand and the Ryan administration on the other is that University of Virginia authorities brutally cracked down on peaceful protesters May 4 while allowing white supremacists to march through UVA unmolested in 2017.

For example, the Virginia Student Power Network posted the following on its Instagram account three days ago:

#Charlottesville students who stood up to torch-bearing Nazis in 2017 affirm their solidarity with the UVA encampment for Gaza, which is currently being threatened by dozens of cops in riot gear – the same police agencies that were fully aware of + allowed 300+ white supremacists with torches and guns on UVA’s campus.

UVA President Jim Ryan took the meme seriously enough that he addressed it during the virtual “town hall” meeting yesterday in defense of his decision to shut down the UVA Encampment for Gaza protest.

In a future post, we’ll deal with the spin that the Encampment was a “peaceful” protest. It was, in fact, a protest that pushed the outer boundaries of peacefulness as we shall document. For now, we will focus on the simplistic notion that UVA applied double standards for White supremacists and pro-Palestinians.

Ryan wasn’t president of UVA in 2017 when the Unite the Right rally occurred. On August 11, the evening before the main event, which devolved into chaos and the death of a counter-protester, 300 White supremacists marched through the heart of Mr. Jefferson’s University bearing tiki torches. Traumatized by the episode, UVA reviewed its response to the event and put new restrictions in place. In shutting down the encampment in 2024, UVA was enforcing those restrictions, Ryan explained during the town hall presentation.

Among UVA’s top leaders taking part in the town hall, Provost Ian Baucom was the only one employed at the University in 2017; he was dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at the time. “I participated in an extensive review of 2017 actions,” he said. “We discovered that we hadn’t readied the university with time, place and manner restrictions that would have allowed the university to step in.” Questions needed answering. How do we designate protest zones? How do we think about affiliated and unaffiliated people? The University has to balance protecting free speech while addressing safety risks, he said.

University Police Chief Tim Longo, who also joined UVA after the Unite the Right rally, said one of the things to go wrong in 2017 was the lack of a unified command. To avoid a repeat, local law enforcement put into place a structure to ensure tight collaboration between university police, the UVA administration, local law enforcement, and state police. During the run-up to the pro-Palestinian tent crackdown, all of those elements were represented in a “command post” set up to deal with the situation. “Every decision made along the way was made in a collective way,” he said. “The message was very clear about how we would go about our work. I can’t say that was true in 2017.”

In sum, the 2017 Unite the Right tragedy forced the University to think through issues it had not confronted in its recent history. The reforms created processes and protocols that were applied in 2024.

The comparison between 2017 and 2024 is flawed for another reason. Many in the Charlottesville community mythologize what happened during the infamous tiki-torch march. The event is remembered as a traumatic if not violent invasion of the University by Neo-Nazis, the KKK, and other white supremacists. But, to borrow a phrase that has been common currency since the 2020 George Floyd riots, the march was “mostly peaceful.” Indeed, it was entirely “peaceful” until the very end when a scuffle occurred with counter-protesters and police intervened to chase off the crowds.

The definitive account of the Unite the Right rally was compiled by Timothy Heaphy, at the time an attorney with the Hunton & Williams law firm. Heaphy later became university counsel under Jim Ryan, and then the lead investigator for Congress’ January 6 riots. The following is extracted from his report, “Independent Review of the 2017 Protest Events in Charlottesville, Virginia.”

The organizer of the tiki torch march, former UVA student Jason Kessler, did not share his plans with university authorities. It was not until 3:13 the afternoon before the march that the University Police Department (UPD) received firm intelligence that the march was planned. UPD Chief Michael Gibson devised what he thought was an adequate plan to deal with the situation. He doubled the number of officers on duty, staging a group near the Rotunda to monitor the march and keeping additional officers on call near UPD headquarters.

Under pressure from one of his supporters to inform law enforcement of the march, Kessler himself placed a call around 5:00 p.m. to notify UPD of his planned activities. Around 8:10 p.m., one of Kessler’s operatives contacted UPD and said the march would begin at Nameless Field around 10:00. According to Heaphy, Gibson was not worried. He said in an email that his officers were “good for right now” and were “watching this closely.”

However, word of the march leaked out on social media, and counter-protesters, who were mobilizing to oppose the White supremacists the following day, decided to take action. Around 9:15 p.m., students and members of the community assembled around the Thomas Jefferson statue in front of the Rotunda.

Contrary to representations made to UPD, the tiki-torch march started earlier than 10:00, and it took a different route — down the Lawn, on both sides of the Rotunda, and toward the plaza with the Jefferson statue. Heaphy described what happened next:

Marchers formed a semi-circle around the Jefferson statue. The small group of counter-protesters who were waiting for them locked arms. Emily Gorcenski recalled observing that after the march began, she ran to the Jefferson statue, and warned the group that a large group was coming, with torches. When she noticed that no police were in sight, Gorcenski decided to remain with the group. When the torch bearing marchers arrived, confrontations ensued, as the counter-protesters exchanged taunts with march participants. On at least one occasion, a counter-protester attempted to knock down a torch, resulting in a physical altercation. At some point, Gorcenski recalled seeing Chris Cantwell [a White supremacist, ed.] deploy mace. Both Cantwell and Gorcenski claimed to have suffered injuries as a result of a chemical agent.

University Professor Walt Heinecke [who would participate in the 2024 Encampment for Gaza rally, –ed.] arrived at St. Paul’s to participate in the training scheduled for 9:30, only to learn that his students were “surrounded by Nazis in front of the Rotunda.” Heinecke noted that the students involved had “taken nonviolent training,” but were very frightened.” Heinecke recalled seeing a torch thrown in the direction of University Dean of Students Allen Groves. …

Seeing disorders break out, UPD officer Scott Smallwood requested assistance around 10:16 p.m. UPD Sergeant Pleasants radioed for help from all available units, including city and state police. Some Charlottesville police officers showed up a minute later, but there were no commanders on the scene so the officers were unsure what to do. Although the White supremacist march had begun breaking up, large crowds still surrounded the statue.

By 10:24, the law-enforcement officers on the scene had gotten organized enough to move on the crowd. Using a squad car microphone, they issued an order to disperse. Police formed a two-deep line but delayed acting until a student in a wheelchair could depart. Officers drew collapsible batons and marched across the plaza, funneling protesters away from the Jefferson statue. The area was cleared by 10:29. UPD made one arrest in the aftermath.

In an interview with Heaphy, Chief Gibson “downplayed the incident, noting that it lasted for less than an hour and did not result in any serious injuries. He retired as UPD chief the following year.

In his analysis of what went wrong, Heaphy argued that Gibson failed to develop a plan to maintain separation between the alt-right marchers and counter-protesters, and he failed to work with his counterparts in Charlottesville, Albemarle County and state law enforcement to create a unified response. He treated Kessler’s march like any other political event. The University’s public areas were open to protesters of any ideology, and UPD would intervene only if laws were broken. “UPD waited for violence to occur before requesting … assistance,” Heaphy wrote.

Addressing the larger Unite the Right rally the next day, which saw significantly more violence, Heaphy criticized the response of the Charlottesville Police Department, Charlottesville City Council, the Virginia State Police, the failure to separate White supremacists from counter-protesters, the failure to intervene in violent disorders, the failure to equip police with sufficient protective gear, and the lack of interoperable communications, and the lack of unified decision making. The problem was not an unwillingness of University police to enforce time, place and manner restrictions that did not exist at the time. The problem was a total lack of preparedness across all levels of government and law enforcement — a lack that local officials proceeded to remedy.

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Clarity77
Clarity77
9 days ago

So here we go again, and I am focusing on two specifically non-student groups, “players” if you will, acting once again to effect disruption and desecration of UVA’s Academical Village. The first being non-University affiliated groups whether home grown in the People’s Republic of C’ville or outside. Self evident in the videos. The second group far worse IMO being UVA faculty acting to foment and incite students(setting the stage) while they hide in the background but later give interviews to the Daily Progress and then gather other leftist faculty to make pompous, hysterical and hyperbolic statements designed to sway public opinion away from the real pathological cause.

Exhibit A, Walt Heinecke. Ah yes of course a Berkeley grad, site of the most violent campus events in 2017 just prior to “Charlottesville” as the media now refers to those events that brought national shame on both our university and C’vile. Let’s further connect the dots on this “player” who it appears has been joined now by other UVA faculty.

First though, the article relates as to that Friday evening of the tiki torchers, and how a group of students and faculty confronted them after a meeting at St. Paul’s, but it does not relate that they were urged and incited by a speaker. That being Cornel West, the most prominent Marxist(and a Harvard dude) in academe at that time. Meanwhile, Walt Heinecke had already applied to the city of C’ville for, if memory serves correct, 3 different sites to be used for staging areas that ended up being on that Saturday the focus of violence where as Heaphy later in his report relates was mismanaged by the various police departments.

Like now as well as then Heinecke is later interviewed by the DP(they probably have his phone on speed dial by now) and he puts his spin of course. In 2017 he expresses “surprise” at his permitted sites ending up in violence, and now he shifts to hyperbole and hysterics in characterizing the police. As of course he never ever intended anything but peaceful demonstration. A pattern. Set up and incite, then later spin. Left of course.

UVA leftist administrations, Ryan’s now, Terry Sullivan’s then, as well as Heaphy in his report of course will not focus on the leftist UVA faculty who in both instances obviously have been the more critical “players” in setting up the scene who then later by design deflect attention and blame in both cases to the police as the “usual suspects.” At the next faculty cocktail party they then cheerfully raise the usual toast all with a good laugh.

Are there any adults, whether at BOV or Virginia state governmental level, in any way concerned as to this ongoing sick leftist UVA faculty game being played out to the detriment both students and citizens of the Commonwealth? The diagnosis is clear as to the pathological origin residing in a leftist Marxist faculty. Swift surgical excision is the treatment of choice in order to effect a good prognosis going forward. If not employed well then expect more of the same and most likely worse especially as we head to November and likely beyond as in 2016.

Clarity77
Clarity77
8 days ago
Reply to  Clarity77

Back to the non-UVA affiliated group as a real problem(not to diminish the UVA leftist/Marxist professor problem) the following latest stats given for two campuses in NYC:

https://twitter.com/Fabien_Levy/status/1786156791354515800

walter smith
walter smith
8 days ago

And once again we come to the elephant in the room.
The Alinskyite protests are not meant as protests. They are designed to cause trouble. Because this is a Leftist tactic, they get a hall pass. But sing hymns at the entrance to an abortion clinic and the full force of the law comes down.
It is one thing to disagree, to argue against, but the “organizing” tactic is precisely to create a decision dilemma – all while pretending to be righteous.
This has gone on for a LOOOOONG time. Years ago somebody was trespassing in Paul Trible’s Richmond office and the trespassing was dismissed. As there have been no consequences for breaking laws, the activity grows worse.
Enforce the laws. Trespass and the mask laws. If there was assault, charge it. If battery, charge. No more hall passes for favored pet Leftist causes. Let there be consequences. Watch the tactic simmer down.

Would Heather Heyer be alive if we enforced the laws? How many others?

Covid opened a lot of eyes about schooling and other things. I hope regular Americans are catching on to the all agitprop all the time Alinskyite “protest” schtick.

Clarity77
Clarity77
8 days ago

To my point as to addressing the issue of the UVA Marxist faculty consider the following at UNC that is related by way of a newsletter I subscribe to:

“University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) professors are threatening to withhold final grades from all students in protest of the school’s suspension of 15 students for violating the rules during the recent pro-terrorist, anti-Semitic demonstrations. Thankfully UNC administrators are warning the professors not to take this action, and that repercussions would ensue. 
 
Imagine being a college senior, and in order to matriculate at graduate school you need your final grades. But because some professors are throwing a hissy fit over students being punished for bad behavior, you are unable to move on with your life.”

So although as we learned at the recent TJC conference, UNC has done a fantastic job of reforming its administration, not to be forgotten is the real problem of the leftist Marxist professors. Would it make sense to recognize it is best to learn from other’s mistakes when it comes to bringing sanity and reason back to our beloved University?

Marco
Marco
8 days ago
Reply to  Clarity77

2017 “alt right” tiny boys – the biggest losers in history of mankind.

walter smith
walter smith
7 days ago
Reply to  Marco

And your point is…?
No one is defending Nazis, pretend Nazis or the like.
So back to what is your point?
If the “alt right” tiny boys were the biggest losers in history, why was a violent mob protesting them necessary? They were already the biggest losers in history.
Wouldn’t the wise course have been to ignore them and deny them the glory?

Marco
Marco
7 days ago
Reply to  walter smith

Look up what the Gravy Seals are. Hahaha

Marco
Marco
7 days ago
Reply to  Marco

A gravy SEAL is a person either belonging to a militia group or has an unhealthy obsession with the military, guns, and anti-government views, but was never actually in the military due to either being grossly out of shape, mentally unfit, or just too dumb to function. Years of dead end jobs and poor diet have made white, middle aged men very upset. Some express that anger through squeezing into a paintball vest that sits just above their beer gut, and sit in the woods to shoot beer cans and talk about how they’ll protect THE GREAT US of A from the evil hippies that love ISIS, hate Jesus, and probably have satanic rituals to sacrifice kids they keep held in a DC pizza shop.

walter smith
walter smith
7 days ago
Reply to  Marco

So what was the need to take them seriously?

Wahoo74
Wahoo74
7 days ago

The radical professors who have taught these misguided students and were present at the encampment melee are quitting their positions of leadership in droves. President Ryan did enforce the rules laid down by Gov. Youngkin and AG Miyares, but he also appointed these “leaders” (sic) to their positions and hired them. He is now reaping what he sowed, since his extreme professors are turning on him.

Perhaps the most egregiously radical professor is Oludamini Ogunnaike, an Associate Professor of African Religious Thought and Democracy (https://religiousstudies.as.virginia.edu/oludamini-ogunnaike). He was also appointed by President Ryan as the Co-Chair of the Religious Diversity Task Force. He quit Monday in protest over Ryan’s response to the Saturday encampment violations, and also published a public letter excoriating Ryan.

Interestingly, Professor Ogunnaike is a virulently anti-Christian zealot. Listen to the brief video below of him dismissing Christianity as a vestige of white supremacy. Don’t believe me? Listen to the video.

How in God’s name could Ryan appoint a racist Christian-hating extremist the co-chair of a “religious diversity” task force?

Here’s the video:
https://religiousstudies.as.virginia.edu/oludamini-ogunnaike.

Massive changes must occur at UVA. Mr. Jefferson’s University has become an SNL skit on university academic extremism.