In response to the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, the SPLC has released a new training video to help law enforcement agencies prevent violence while protecting the rights of both speakers and protesters when hate groups stage rallies in their town.
The video is narrated by James Cavanaugh, a former special agent in charge at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
“The right to free speech and to express one’s views is a constitutional freedom on which this country was founded,” Cavanaugh says. “The right to protest the views of others is an equally important freedom. And it’s up to you as law enforcement officers to protect your community and its citizens as they exercise these rights. You may be tasked with upholding the free speech rights of hate group members.”
Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, said the violence in Charlottesville and other cities illustrated the need to equip police with tips and tactics for protecting protesters and counterprotesters alike. The video includes lessons learned in Charlottesville, where local agencies were criticized for not intervening in assaults they witnessed.
“Charlottesville showed that hate group rallies can quickly turn violent if city leaders and law enforcement authorities don’t plan carefully for everything that might happen,” Beirich said. “Fortunately police can prevent violence, and communities can do their part to respect free speech.”
The rally in Charlottesville was not the only hate event to become violent in recent years. In Sacramento, for instance, seven people were stabbed at a neo-Nazi event outside the state Capitol in June 2016. More than 400 people had arrived to protest the event held by racist skinheads. Hate group events have also been held in New Orleans, Boston, Berkeley and numerous other cities in recent months.
The video was released alongside a detailed event response checklist. The checklist includes tips about the research police should do ahead of an event; how to communicate clearly with representatives of the groups that will be present; and how and where to erect buffer zones and entry checkpoints. It also suggests how to follow up the event with thorough debriefing and a review of photos and videos from the event.
The SPLC has produced six previous training videos for law enforcement. They can be viewed here.
Law Enforcement Response to Hate Events
Law enforcement officers may be tasked with upholding the free speech rights of hate group members – even hard-core racists – in the face of opposition from citizens in the community. This 13 minute roll call video outlines how to effectively respond when hate comes to town.
The Rise of the Lone Wolf
In response to the Charleston church massacre in 2015, the SPLC has produced a training video to help law enforcement officers combat “lone wolf” domestic terrorists. Designed to be shown to officers during roll call, Understanding the Threat: The Rise of the Lone Wolf focuses on violent extremists who commit acts of terror entirely on their own, without the help, financing or guidance of other individuals or groups. Earlier SPLC training videos have focused on “sovereign citizens,” people who believe most laws don’t apply to them; racist skinheads, known for their brutality and affinity for violence; and Aryan prison gangs, which have increasingly spilled from behind bars onto city streets.
Hate crimes don’t just affect the victim — they can affect an entire community. This 15-minute roll call video outlines how to respond to, recognize and report hate crimes properly and promptly.
Learn the warning signs when antigovernment leaders have targeted your community, and what to do when your community is under threat, in this 12-minutes roll call video.
Sovereign Citizen Movement
This 14-minute video highlights the strange subculture of the sovereign citizens movement, whose adherents hold truly bizarre, complex antigovernment beliefs, has been growing at a fast pace since the late 2000s. Sovereigns believe that they get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore, and they don’t think they should have to pay taxes.
Aryan Prison Gangs
This 15-minute video was created to help law enforcement agencies better prepare for encounters with aryan prison gang members behind prison walls and on the streets.
This 13-minute video was created to help law enforcement agencies better prepare for encounters with skinhead groups.