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City to close Heather Heyer Way during Aug. 12 anniversary

Charlottesville officials say the downtown street that was site of a 2017 neo-Nazi car attack on a crowd of marchers will be closed during the weekend of the fifth anniversary of the violent and deadly events of the Aug. 12, 2017 Unite the Right rally.

Officials say they will close Fourth Street Southeast, a Downtown Mall vehicle crossing, between East Market Street and East Street from 6 p.m. on Aug. 11 to 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 14. Public transit provided by Charlottesville Area Transit will operate on a normal schedule.

Officials said on Tuesday that they do not have any evidence of “credible threats” against the community during the anniversary, but they are preparing just in case. The closure will also assist with pedestrian safety for the Fridays After Five event that will take place Aug. 12.

“The Charlottesville Police Department is maintaining a status of heightened situational awareness and monitoring chatter from intelligence sources,” officials said in a prepared statement.

They added that police plan to be prepared to increase available coverage downtown and in the parks to quickly respond “to any pop-up emergencies that might occur.”

“In addition, [police are] having ongoing communications with state and regional partners to be prepared to quickly respond to any incidents that may occur.”

The section of road being closed is known as Heather Heyer Way in honor of the 32-year-old local woman who was killed when a neo-Nazi protester drove his car into a crowd of marchers at the end of the riotous clash between white supremacists and counter-protesters.

The car’s driver, James Alex Fields, Jr, drove from Ohio to participate in the rally designed to unify a variety of white supremacist and racist organizations. He was convicted in a state court for the first-degree murder of Heyer, eight counts of malicious wounding, and hit and run. He was sentenced to life in prison plus an additional 419 years in July 2019.

Fields also pled guilty to 29 federal hate crime charges to avoid the death penalty, which resulted in another life sentence handed down in June 2019.

Officials said they understand that the events of five years ago continue to impact local residents and that anyone who feels they need assistance during the anniversary should contact the Community Mental Health and Wellness Coalition’s Behavioral Health Crisis center at (434) 230-9704.

The Crisis Call Center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Help Happens Here Information and Referral Line is also available to help connect residents to services at (434) 227-0641.

“The safety and well-being of every member of the Charlottesville community remains our top priority,” officials said in the statement. “If at any time there develops a public safety concern, the city will provide updated communication to the public.”

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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