Charlottesville police chief quits amid criticism over handling of far-right rally


Washington (AFP)

The Charlottesville police chief who was criticized for his handling of a white supremacist rally in August in which an anti-Nazi protester was killed announced on Monday he was stepping down.

The Virginia city announced in a statement that Alfred Thomas had announced his retirement Monday, "effective immediately".

Thomas' decision to step down came two weeks after an independent report was highly critical of the police response to the rally of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other far-right groups in the historic university town.

The report said police were slow in their response to clashes between white nationalists and demonstrators who opposed their ultranationalist agenda, and appear to have been overwhelmed as violence erupted.

The white nationalists had gathered in large numbers to protest the removal of a Civil War-era statue. As counter-demonstrators confronted them, a neo-Nazi activist rammed his car into their ranks, killing a young woman.

As pictures of the clashes flashed around the world, President Donald Trump was widely criticized for not roundly condemning the far-right rally.

Police officers said after the event that they had not received clear instructions on how to respond to the violence, and investigators found a lack of coordination between local and state law enforcement.

Thomas had served 27 years as a police officer.