From The New York Times:
On Sunday, Charlottesville tried to recover — as the police, in particular, came in for criticism.
But others, including Mr. Kessler and Ms. Caine-Conley, openly wondered if the violence could have been prevented.
“There was no police presence,” Ms. Caine-Conley said. “We were watching people punch each other; people were bleeding all the while police were inside of barricades at the park, watching. It was essentially just brawling on the street and community members trying to protect each other.”
Sensing there might be trouble, the city tried to deny Mr. Kessler’s group a permit for Emancipation Park; officials wanted the gathering in a larger park, where they felt they could better control the crowd. But on Friday evening, a judge sided with Mr. Kessler. Mayor Signer would later lament on Twitter that it was a fateful turn of events.
“This is EXACTLY why City tried to change venue to McIntire,” he wrote.
But according to many witnesses, the police waited to intervene. Ms. Caine-Conley called it “fascinating and appalling.”
Mr. Kessler, too, complained.
In a statement, he said the authorities had “exacerbated the violence” by failing to separate his followers from counterprotesters. He said his group had “networked with law enforcement officials” months ago on a plan for maintaining safety, which he said was not followed, and he called the police “underequipped for the situation.”
Racism in any form is contemptible. The murder and attempted murder by a person allegedly associated with white supremacist groups is appalling. That said, there was plenty of violence coming from the “liberal” protesters too—with the apparent approval of many on the Left. As The Atlantic notes:
Antifa’s violent tactics have elicited substantial support from the mainstream left.
When the masked antifa activist was filmed assaulting Spencer on Inauguration Day, another piece in The Nation described his punch as an act of “kinetic beauty.” Slate ran an approving article about a humorous piano ballad that glorified the assault. Twitter was inundated with viral versions of the video set to different songs, prompting the former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau to tweet, “I don’t care how many different songs you set Richard Spencer being punched to, I’ll laugh at every one.”
The violence is not directed only at avowed racists like Spencer: In June of last year, demonstrators—at least some of whom were associated with antifa—punched and threw eggs at people exiting a Trump rally in San Jose, California. An article in It’s Going Down celebrated the “righteous beatings.”
Antifa’s perceived legitimacy is inversely correlated with the government’s. Which is why, in the Trump era, the movement is growing like never before. As the president derides and subverts liberal-democratic norms, progressives face a choice. They can recommit to the rules of fair play, and try to limit the president’s corrosive effect, though they will often fail. Or they can, in revulsion or fear or righteous rage, try to deny racists and Trump supporters their political rights. From Middlebury to Berkeley to Portland, the latter approach is on the rise, especially among young people.
Revulsion, fear, and rage are understandable. But one thing is clear. The people preventing Republicans from safely assembling on the streets of Portland may consider themselves fierce opponents of the authoritarianism growing on the American right. In truth, however, they are its unlikeliest allies.
When given the opportunity to denounce left-wing violence, Governor Terry McAuliffe apparently passed on the invitation.
Cooler heads must prevail or a lot more people will die. Leaders on the Right and Left must continually condemn violence if we are to avoid war.