Statement on the Need for Weapons-free Safety Zones for Events Like 8/12/17

posted Dec 5, 2017, 7:13 PM by David Swanson

Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice

After the KKK Rally of July 8th, members of the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice feared that violence would occur at the much larger white supremacist rally on August 12th.  Among our recommendations to Charlottesville City Council was the request that the city establish a safety zone surrounding and including Emancipation Park within which all weapons would be prohibited.  We were later told by a city councilor that the city could not legally establish the safety zone we recommended.  In consideration of the events of August 11th and 12th, our board and members see a great need for every municipality to have the legal authority to establish safety zones for events that pose a risk of violence.  These safety zones would be limited to the specific locations and times related to the events.  Within those safety zones all weapons would be prohibited.  Three compelling reasons argue for granting this authority to municipalities:

 

1.     Excluding weapons from potentially violent events will reduce the risk of bodily harm for every participant and for law enforcement officers.

2.     On the night of August 11th white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched with torches through the University of Virginia grounds, assaulted students trying to protect a statue of Thomas Jefferson, and threatened clergy and community members attending an interfaith worship service.  As those marchers mimicked the terrorism of Nazis in Germany during the 1930s, they were asserting the dominance of mob rule over civil authority.  On August 12th, confident in their numbers and armament, the white supremacists, fascists, neo-Nazis and others again asserted their hateful dominance of mob rule over civil authority.  Given the legal authority to establish weapons-free safety zones, municipalities like Charlottesville could clearly assert the dominance of civil authority over mob rule before, during, and after an event.  Enforcing a prohibition against weapons of any kind would maintain public order and safety without infringing on anyone’s right to peaceful assembly and free speech.  Weapons are not necessary for speech.  In fact, mob rule destroys free speech.

3.     Establishing safety zones for specific events, times, and locations, would give municipalities a basic operational structure for maintaining public order and safety.  Within that structure municipalities would be able to set and publish rules for the event well in advance.  They could develop strategies, standard procedures, training, and also prepare needed equipment to enforce the weapons prohibition and maintain control of the event from start to finish.

 

The board and members of the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice therefore urge the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia to enact legislation to empower municipalities to establish weapons-free safety zones for specific events, times, and locations.  The need for this authority is urgent.  The organizations that brought mayhem to Charlottesville in August have promised to return.  Those same organizations are planning events in other localities throughout Virginia.  Every municipality needs this authority.  We ask for your prompt attention to our request.

 

Sincerely,

Robert S. McAdams

President, Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice

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