FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 11, 2020
Special event cessation remains in effect; Most gatherings of fifty or more individuals prohibited
STATEMENT FROM CITY MANAGER TARRON RICHARDSON
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA -- Three years ago, the Charlottesville community came under attack by white supremacists seeking to spread their hateful, vile ideology. Dozens of people standing up for racial justice were injured and Heather Heyer and Virginia State Police Pilots Berke Bates and Jay Cullen lost their lives.
Three years later, we continue to be more united, more resilient and ever hopeful as our community works, even during the very difficult circumstances of a pandemic, to address underlying racial and economic justice issues. The City continues to demonstrate its strong support and commitment toward racial equity, education equity, affordable housing, and employment opportunities.
For the second anniversary of August 2017, the City invited the community to lead more than 80 events over four months to educate, inspire, and honor people in our community in order to move towards economic and racial justice. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City’s Unity Days activities were unable to take place during 2020.
As the potential spread of COVID-19 continues to threaten the health and safety of Charlottesville, my March 12, 2020 decision to cease issuing special event permits, such as those for Unity Days, remains in effect.
Further, the Charlottesville City Council enacted an ordinance on July 27, 2020 which prohibits gatherings of fifty or more individuals within the City of Charlottesville with limited exceptions. A violation of the ordinance is punishable as a Class 3 Misdemeanor or Class 4 Misdemeanor and can result in a fine of up to $500. Any gathering of fifty or more individuals within the City of Charlottesville is subject to the ordinance’s provisions including potential criminal charges. Additionally, Governor Ralph S. Northam’s Executive Order 67 remains in effect which prohibits gatherings of two hundred and fifty or more individuals.
On August 12, 2020, the City will close the vehicular crossings of the Downtown Mall to facilitate safe visitation and solemn remembrances at the site of the 2017 attack. We ask that the community continue to follow all aspects of the local COVID-19 ordinance, specifically the wearing of face coverings and adherence to the gathering limits. No special event permits have been approved for the use of downtown parks or other public property for August 11 or 12, 2020.
Violations of the COVID-19 ordinance and any events that block City streets have a direct impact on service delivery and can endanger the health and safety of the community. Unauthorized closures of City streets can delay responses for emergency vehicles and require rerouting to an emergency incident, the hospital, or other critical infrastructure when seconds matter. Additionally positioning one’s self in a lane of travel/traffic without proper protection is putting oneself potentially in grave danger.
On Saturday, August 8, 2020, a large crowd gathered for a “block party” in Washington Park and then proceeded to occupy the intersection of Preston and Grady Avenue for approximately three hours. While the City of Charlottesville has supported the community’s right to peaceably assemble, occupying city streets and parks without the proper permits can no longer be allowed. These non-permitted events come at considerable cost to the City of Charlottesville, particularly during the COVID crisis when resources are already strained. Citations will be issued by the City Manager to the block party organizers who used Washington Park without a special event permit. Moving forward, those who commit violations of state law and/or City ordinance, such as obstructing or blocking traffic, COVID restrictions, or any other violation will be charged accordingly.
We know that many in our community remain traumatized by the events of August 2017. Making progress towards a more just and equitable community will require significant structural change to our community. However, none of this will be possible if we are not able to create and sustain a safe environment in which to carry out this important work.
The well-being of our City relies on the commitment of every community member to the safety of our fellow residents. We ask you to join us in safely observing this anniversary.
Director of Communications
City of Charlottesville