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Charlottesville PD chief 'regrets' response to Saturday's protests

Charlottesville PD chief 'regrets' response to Saturday's protests
Posted at 1:47 PM, Aug 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-14 16:53:29-04

Speaking to reporters Monday afternoon, Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas said that he regrets his department's response to Saturday's protests in the Virginia town, which left three people dead. 

Part of the blame, Thomas said, was on the alt-right protesters who did not follow an agreed upon arrangement on how its protesters would enter Emancipation Park. Instead, protesters from the alt-right, KKK and neo-Nazi groups arrived from various directions, causing Thomas' department to readjust its plans. 

Charlottesville Police officers were originally deployed in their standard uniform, but were forced to wear tactical gear as protests quickly escalated into violence. 

"We were not intimidated by their power, but it was prudent to make sure the officers were equipped," Thomas said. 

Alt-right protest organizer Jason Kessler blamed the police for allowing the violence to escalate.

"The blame for today's violence lies primarily with the Charlottesville government officials and the police officers who failed to maintain law and order, protect the First Amendment rights of rally participants, and provide for their safety," Kessler said in a statement on Sunday.

By the end of the day, one counter protester and two police officers were killed. Heather D. Heyer, 32, died on Saturday when a car allegedly driven by 20-year-old Ohio resident James Alex Fields Jr. plowed into a group protesting against white supremacy. 

Later in the day, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, 48, and trooper Berke M.M. Bates, 40, of the Virginia State Police were killed in a helicopter accident while patrolling Saturday's protest.