Rally canceled due to ‘safety concerns’

Published 3:03 pm Saturday, August 19, 2017

The organizer of a planned peace rally on Saturday evening said she canceled the event because of safety concerns.

Imari Griffin, 25, had planned the event following last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, where white supremacists and other extremist groups rallied to protest the city’s planned removal of a statue honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The rally turned violent and deadly when the group clashed with counterprotesters.

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Heather D. Heyer, 32, of Charlottesville, died when a 20-year-old Ohio man, James Alex Fields Jr., rammed his car into a group of counterprotesters. At least 19 others were injured in that crash, plus numerous others injured in individual confrontations throughout the day.

Two Virginia State Police officers, Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates and Lt. H. Jay Cullen, also lost their lives when the helicopter from which they were monitoring the events crashed.

One of those injured during the day was Suffolk native Deandre Harris, who posted on an online fundraising page that he went to the event as a counterprotester, intending “to voice my opinion on racial tension and to literally stand up for what I believe in.”

He had only been there a few minutes before he was hit with water bottles, pepper-sprayed and had derogatory slurs hurled at him, he wrote. Later, he was attacked by a group of white supremacists wielding metal poles in a parking garage beside a Charlottesville police station, he wrote.

Harris wrote that he was diagnosed with a concussion and broken arm and received eight staples in his head. He also has a chipped tooth and many abrasions and lacerations.

Griffin had said she didn’t want any violence at Saturday’s event.

She did not elaborate on her safety concerns.

“I don’t really want to say much,” she said. “I said from the beginning it was non-violent. If I felt like anyone was going to get hurt, I was going to cancel it.”

She said she is going to donate the cases of bottled water she had obtained for marchers to area churches that feed the homeless.