DREAMers On Grounds, the University organization “dedicated to protecting and supporting the undocumented student community,” released a statement Thursday criticizing the heightened security around Grounds in anticipation of the “Unite the Right” anniversary. While the group acknowledged that the police presence was intended to protect students and local residents, its statement accused law enforcement of instilling unnecessary fear among their more vulnerable members.
The organization claimed that University students were not properly consulted prior to the deployment of Virginia state troopers and national guardsmen on Grounds.
“The expansive and over-the-top militarization of UVA’s Grounds without proper consent from the student body, particularly students of color and undocumented students, is irresponsible at the very least,” the statement reads. “Students have expressed confusion and worry upon seeing hundreds of cars parked in the residential dorm areas — many are afraid of the potential of [sic] being stopped and frisked.”
Around 700 Virginia state troopers will be in the Charlottesville area this weekend, with more than 300 national guardsmen also ready to intervene in case of violence. These officials will join Albemarle County, Charlottesville, and University Police Departments in their efforts to keep the local community safe. Many of the officers who have traveled from outside Charlottesville to be present for the anniversary will be accommodated on University-owned property, including Lambeth Field.
The statement from DREAMers on Grounds described the fear that some of their constituents might face due to the abundance of policemen in the area.
“We hope that this email has been enough to highlight the fact that policing in and of itself is problematic when done without regard to the community’s opinion and mental health,” the DREAMers on Grounds executive board wrote. “We urge you to please reach out to the UVA community, thoroughly explaining what went into the decision to over-police a population that holds students of all races, backgrounds, and status that may have had traumatic run-ins with police, state troopers, ICE, or general authority figures. We also urge the removal of most, if not all, state troopers being housed side-by-side to our student’s [sic] residential areas.”
In an email sent to students on Thursday, University President James Ryan explained the extensive precautions that he, his administration and local security officials decided to take in anticipation of a “fraught” anniversary weekend.
“[Our] decisions were made, in part, out of concern that a sizable number of people will be coming to Charlottesville this weekend with all sorts of agendas. While some of them come in peace, others have expressed an intent on social media to do harm,” Ryan wrote. “We must do our best to ensure that peaceful gatherings are not interrupted by those intending to harm others or destroy property. We cannot allow our community members to be vulnerable to that threat. That is why there is an increased law enforcement presence here and why we are taking additional security measures.”
Check WUVA News throughout the weekend for coverage of the Aug. 11 and 12 anniversary events.