Charlottesville has remained on high alert Sunday as the city marks the one-year anniversary of the violent gathering of white supremacists on the University of Virginia campus that left one woman dead and heightened deeply-rooted racial tensions across the nation.
Several groups held impromptu memorial services at the site where 32-year-old Heather Heyer was mowed down by a speeding alleged Nazi sympathizer on August 12 last year.
Hundreds of police officers, many wearing riot gear, patrolled the downtown area searching people as they entered.
The only protesters on view were anti-Fascists and people wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts. No obvious white supremacists were to be seen.
Sunday has felt considerably more tense than the previous day which had ended with a march from the university campus into the town center. Minor skirmishes were reported on the march but it dispersed peacefully.
The Commonwealth of Virginia has been placed under a state of emergency as law enforcement officials brace for a second day of protests both in Charlottesville and 115 miles away in Washington, DC.
SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEO
Local activists and community members took to the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, on Sunday to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Heather Heyer during the white-nationalist ‘Unite the Right’ rally
A group of about 60 demonstrators marched down The Mall in the historic Virginia city
Demonstrators formed a circle in the intersection where Heyer was killed and held hands as they said a prayer
On Sunday morning a peaceful group of demonstrators gathered in a Charlottesville park to protest racism
Among the group was Courtney Commander, a friend of Heyer’s who was with the 21-year-old when she was killed last year
The more than 200 demonstrators at the park on Sunday morning were seen singing songs and listening to speakers
Sunday was the second day that the historic city – home to the University of Virginia – was under virtual police search. Fewer stores and restaurants were open in the 18-block downtown area which had been cordoned off.
Helicopters buzzed over downtown all morning but there were few problems. For many cops in heavy gear the main concern was keeping cool as temperatures rose to a sticky 86 degrees.
Cops urged restaurants to abandon their outdoor seating areas in the middle of the street.
A group of some 60 people marched up The Mall to the spot on 4th Street where Heyer was killed. The few passers-by clapped them as they chanted anti-Fascist slogans.
They were pictured holding hands in a circle at the intersection where Heather Heyer was fatally struck by a vehicle during last year’s clashes.
Earlier this morning a group of more than 200 people gathered at a park to protest racism, singing songs and listening to guest speakers.
Among the group was Courtney Commander, a friend of Heyer’s who was with the 32-year-old when she was killed.
Commander told AP: ‘She is with me today, too.’
Hundreds of anti-racist protesters marched from UVA into downtown Charlottesville chanting and taunting police Saturday
The calm atmosphere at Sunday’s gathering was a stark contrast to one held the night before, pictured above
A group of anti-fascist and Black Lives Matter demonstrators march on the UVA campus after the rally on Saturday
On Saturday night more than 200 anti-racist protesters marched from the university into Charlottesville town center after dark chanting and at times taunting police.
They unfurled a banner reading ‘Last year they came w/ torches. This year they come w/ badges’ and chanted: ‘Why are you in riot gear? We don’t see no riot here.’
Last year, 22-year-old Clara Carlson faced down a group of white supremacists who marched through campus, surrounding her and a group of friends. On Saturday night, she was angry at the police response to the student rally.
‘The university administration just let white supremacists roll through grounds with their torches, and for us, they’re afraid of us. They are afraid of us because we are demanding change from the university,’ Carlson said.
Around 1,000 police and members of Virginia National Guard were deployed to the university city with one aim — to prevent a repeat of the events that ended in mayhem last year.
Cops made three arrests inside an 18-block security area set up in the center of the city of 47,000 people. One was for trespassing and one for drunkenness.
Police said the third man arrested was white-bearded 62-year-old John Miska, who was summonsed for buying razors — which were among the items banned in the area.
The march broke up peacefully shortly after 9pm and the demonstrators – mainly students – straggled back home.
Demonstrators carried a banner that read: ‘Last year they came w/ torches, this year they come with badges’, decrying the large police presence at the rally
Emily Filler attempts to stop police from advancing on students rallying on the grounds of the University of Virginia Saturday
Virginia State Police officers form a cordon at the University of Virginia, ahead of the ‘Unite the Right’ rally anniversary
Demonstrators march down Rugby Avenue near the University of Virginia campus one year after the Unite the Right rally
The anti-racist demonstration had dispersed by around 9pm Saturday night following a couple brief confrontations with cops
Although the day was calm, local resident John Miska was arrested for purchasing razor blades, which are banned items in the locked down downtown area
Last year, on August 12, hundreds of white nationalists – including neo-Nazis, skinheads and Ku Klux Klan members – descended on Charlottesville in part to protest the city’s decision decided to remove a monument to Confederate Gen Robert E Lee from a park.
Violent fighting broke out between attendees and counterprotesters. Authorities eventually forced the crowd to disperse, but a car later barreled into a crowd of peaceful counterprotesters, killing Heyer and injuring dozens more. A state police helicopter later crashed, killing two troopers.
Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, told The Associated Press that she has been dreading the anniversary of her daughter’s death for months. On Sunday afternoon, she plans to bring flowers to the spot where her daughter was killed.
Bro likened losing a child to standing in shallow water as waves roll continually in: ‘You let the wave wash over, and you don’t chase it. You let it go and you’re OK until the next one comes. But today, I feel like high tide is in.’
The photo above shows the hundreds of white nationalists who descended on the UVA campus last summer sparking riots
Susan Bo (left, in Charlottesville on Friday) told counter-protesters to make sure they stay safe at Sunday’s Unite the Right 2 event in Washington. Pictured right: Heather Heyer
Some 115 miles from Charlottesville in Washington, authorities are preparing for protests on a much larger scale as the principal organizer of last year’s ‘Unite the Right’ event is scheduled to hold a so-called white civil rights rally, bringing with it a significantly higher number of counterprotesters.
Jason Kessler, principal organizer of last year’s ‘Unite the Right’ who abandoned his bid to stage a similar anniversary event in Charlottesville, said in his permit application that he expects 100 to 400 people to participate in his event Sunday afternoon in Lafayette Park, in front of the White House.
President Donald Trump won’t be there, though, as he is at his golf club in New Jersey.
The number of people at Kessler’s event could be lower than his estimate and likely will be dwarfed by counterprotests.
Some leading figures in the U.S. white nationalist movement have said they won’t attend or have encouraged supporters to stay away.
The National Park Service also issued permits for events organized by DC United Against Hate, New York Black Lives Matter and other groups.
Government and police officials in Washington have expressed confidence the city can manage the events without violence; the mayor and police chief have promised a massive security mobilization to keep protesters and counter-protesters apart.
Ahmed Mohamed writes a message on the ground of the alleyway where the community has placed a memorial for Heyer
Charlie Spearman, foreground, and Jae Em Cafico kneel at the memorial dedicated to Heyer on Saturday
Demonstrators listen to speakers on the campus of the University of Virginia in during a rally on Saturday afternoon