Was a possible watershed moment in our history — the violence by right-wing extremists in Charlottesville, Virginia — precipitated by poor policing?
“I don’t care how angry the groups are. I don’t care how many there are,” said former Chief of Department Louis Anemone, who wrote the NYPD orders for disorder control. “We would have been right in the middle of it.”
In contrast to Charlottesville, where cops seemed unprepared for the deadly demonstration, a large Boston police presence during a rally this weekend kept protesters and counter-protesters mostly peaceful.
“It starts with planning,” said Anemone, who retired in 1999. “[Virginia law enforcement authorities] knew that this was coming. Once you have foreknowledge and know the history of these groups, it’s not rocket science.”
Gun laws may be different in Virginia. Still, as Anemone put it, “You may have a right to own or even carry a weapon, but in this particular instance when you have a threat to public safety, a mayor or a ranking police official can issue directives.”
Likewise, for counter-protesters: “You can also warn the demonstrators in advance that if you demonstrate, we will not allow you to carry sticks or pipes . . . It’s little things like that that make the difference.”
One of the more appalling videos out of Charlottesville showed three white men in battle fatigues standing outside a synagogue, each holding a high-powered weapon. The synagogue’s rabbi told NBC he advised congregants to sneak out the back door.
“You have anti-black and anti-Jewish groups and you don’t prepare in advance to protect vulnerable institutions?” Anemone said of the local and state police response to the planned Charlottesville rally. “Don’t they have a list of them? Don’t they care? . . . It was a little bit of good-old-boy policing style. As in ‘Yankees, don’t tell us how to do it, we’ve been doing it this way for 100 years.’ ”
Anemone said his “Yankee” comment came from working with police in the south. After he retired from the NYPD, he worked as a consultant for the Jackson, Mississippi, police department. “I was introduced to the chief and his top deputy. They asked me my name. Their first comment was, ‘That doesn’t sound like a southern name.’ I said, ‘It is southern. Southern Italy.’ ”