RICHMOND, Va. -- Nearly 200 Monument Avenue and Fan residents attended a community meeting Thursday, all wondering what the police department’s plan of attack will be should a rally and possible counter-protest materialize near the Lee Monument on Saturday
"In order for us to protect you, we have to worry about our safety first," Chief Alfred Durham told the crowd in the dining hall at the First Baptist Church.
It seems Richmond's historic Monument Avenue will be the scene of a visit from a Confederate group from Tennessee. Other groups with opposing views are expected to turn up as well.
"How do you recommend that counter protesters protect themselves from being shot on Saturday?” asked a woman, who was apparently planning on counter-protesting.
"My recommendation, and don't take this the wrong way, don't show up,” said Durham. “Don't show up."
Police detailed the communities with information about how to keep themselves and their property safe, but stopped short of telling the public every detail of their planning.
"Can you tell me if officers will be posted?" asked one resident.
"Ma'am, we never want to tip our hand on tactics," replied Durham.
Groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans have told their members to stay far away Saturday. They say politicians are the ones fanning the flames of fury.
"Everything was fine until politicians decided to make it an issue when there wasn't one before,” said Edwin Rey, the group’s leader. “We choose to defend our monuments in the courts, General Assembly and ballot boxes."
While there will be no pat-downs, police say bricks, poles and other types of weapons will not be allowed. And they say protesters who try to conceal their identities with masks will be arrested, no questions asked.
Durham was at pains to say Saturday's rally will not see a repeat of what happened in Charlottesville, a solemn guarantee to the citizens of Richmond.
"We don't exactly know who is coming,” acknowledged Durham. “That's the struggle here."
Durham cautioned that Saturday residents and visitors will see a different traffic pattern. That said his counterparts from Chesterfield, Henrico, State Police and Capitol Police will be working together, with all the manpower necessary to keep the peace.