But when we argue about the right to assembly in Charlottesville, everyone needs to understand that the issue was not “rally or no rally.” It was “rally in this tiny, highly symbolic park” or “rally in this larger, far safer park.” Context makes that a far different argument.
You are absolutely correct that context makes a far different argument. You failed however to mention the full context here. Context isn’t about cherry-picking the parts of the story that fit a desired narrative and ignoring the rest of the facts.
The Unite the Right organizers applied for a permit for their “rally” on May 30th. That permit was issued by the City of Charlottesville on June 13th. The City then, in the ensuing weeks, issued 2 additional permits for counter-protest rallies at McArthur Park and Justice Park — both within 2 blocks of Emancipation Park.
The City then waited until August 7th (5 days before the scheduled rally) to revoke the Unite the Right’s permit and offered them he opportunity to hold their rally at McIntire Park.
The City claimed that this was due to the number of counter-protesters that planned to attend. Those counter-protesters, according to the City, were not those that had permits. So the City was attempting to relocate a legally permitted rally because they anticipated that other people were going to be assembling illegally. The City’s obligation there is to prevent the illegal activity, not relocate the legal activity.
But the city felt this space was too small because racists tend to draw huge numbers of counter-protesters.
The Unite the Right idiots had a permit for a rally of up to 1,000 people at Emancipation Park (which is 1.04 acres according to the City of Charlottesville website). The City also issued a permit for a counter-protest of up to 2,000 people at Justice Park which is smaller than Emancipation Park is (Justice Park is .4 acres). How do you justify Emancipation Park being “too small” for 1,000 people yet Justice Park is less than half the size and had a permit for twice the number of people?
The City didn’t revoke the permits for the other 2 counter-protests that were near Emancipation Park. In effect, the City was attempting to relocate the Unite The Right clowns from Emancipation Park which was at the center of their reasoning for holding the rally to begin with (and which you admit yourself was “highly symbolic”) to another location a mile away while leaving the counter-protesters with a symbolic “protective ring” around Emancipation Park.
Now, imagine if you will, what would happen if the NAACP obtained a permit to hold a rally at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma Alabama on Martin Luther King Day. Weeks later the Selma police hear that the KKK plans to surround the bridge as a counter-protest. The KKK has no permit for this counter-protest yet the Selma police revoke the NAACP’s permit and tell them that they can, instead, hold their rally across town on the small bridge on Marie Foster St. that crosses over the stream alongside the Walmart Supercenter. That tiny bridge holds zero symbolic meaning to the NAACP but the NAACP shouldn’t have any problem relocating, right? After all, it’s for their own safety…
As distasteful as it is, in light of the full context, the ACLU made the correct move.