Governor’s task force to address civil unrest holds first meeting

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Following the deaths of two state police officers and one woman after protests and counter protests turned violent in Charlottesville, questions loom over what localities and the state could do to prevent further deaths in the future.

“We are working in an environment where these protests are becoming increasingly violent,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran.

Moran chairs a task force created by the governor and is made up in part by law enforcement, attorneys, city managers, and state lawmakers. The group will try to come up with ways to improve preparation and responses to civil unrest.

“We need to try to develop methods and procedures by which people can exercise their first amendment rights but recognizing also the public safety risks that are involved,” Moran said.

At the group’s first meeting, 1st amendment scholar Dean Smolla, who has represented Klansmen at the U.S. Supreme Court, says that legally groups like neo-nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan have a right to protest under the 1st amendment. He says people have a right to counter protest, but believes authorities have a right to keep those groups separated and use force if they feel there is an imminent threat.

“The more force the better, neutrally deployed and everything you can do to not create the impression that you’re taking sides,” Smolla said.

As far as potential rallies around the Lee Monument in Richmond this weekend, Moran says they’re gathering intelligence and preparing as much as they can.

“Conversations with Richmond, the city police and our state police and to coordinate our efforts and to respond with any and all resources that they request,” Moran explained.

Another topic of conversation at the meeting was how the state and localities should go about allowing permits. Smolla says permits should be as detailed and specific as possible in order to prevent groups from doing or bringing things they shouldn’t.

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