Editorials

MCAULIFFE, HEATHER HEYER & THE HEIGHT OF HYPOCRISY

Originally published in the Summer 2019 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 59, printed August 23. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Summer 2019 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.

Former Vice President Joe Biden was recently in Richmond, raising money for his bid for the Democratic Party nomination for president. While he was here, he made the stunningly opportunist claim that the reason he decided to try for the country’s most powerful office was because of the horrific events in Charlottesville in August 2017. 

But if you think Joe could thereby lay claim to the title of the country’s Number One Hypocrite, you’d be shortchanging the real winner in that field. 

This summer, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe came out with “Beyond Charlottesville: Taking a Stand Against White Nationalism,” published by Thomas Dunne Books. In it, he berates Cville elected officials for its preparations for the “Unite the Right” fascist rally and claims the city ignored advice from the state on how to prepare for the event. 

In the aftermath of the events, Charlottesville asked Hunton & Williams attorney Timothy J. Heaphy, a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, to review what happened on Aug. 12. His report stated that the Virginia State Police “directed its officers to remain behind barricades rather than risk injury responding to conflicts between protesters and counter-protesters,” and that the Charlottesville police brass “similarly instructed their officers not to intervene in all but the most serious physical confrontations.” 

It’s now generally accepted that Charlottesville’s then-chief of police, Al S. Thomas Jr., ordered his officers not to intervene. But the State Police – and the National Guard, which also was on the scene – are under the control of the governor. He’s the one who would have had to order them to stand down. 

We believe the reason was that both the chief and McAuliffe deliberately let things get out of hand so they could shut down the “alt-right” rally without risking getting sued by the ACLU – which, to its eternal shame, already had gone to court to force the city to let the fascists rally in the city park. 

The Defenders were in Charlottesville on Aug. 12. Just before Heather Heyer was killed, we heard that a large group of fascists was marching toward a nearby Black housing complex and that people were massing to stop them. 

That’s what Heather was doing when she was killed: putting her own body in the path of the Nazis to defend the Black community. 

Our squad of four Defenders was one block away when James Field’s car tore into the crowd. One of our members, a former Marine and cardiac nurse, performed CPR on an injured woman who had stopped breathing. When the police did finally show up – in armored personnel carriers – they pointed automatic weapons at our faces. 

Heather Heyer died because law enforcement – city, county, state and the National Guard – all allowed armed white supremacists to march toward a Black community. 

And those officers stood down because they were ordered to do so. 

The blood of Heather Heyer is on Terry McAuliffe’s hands- the country’s Number One Hypocrite.  

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