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Charlottesville Business Owners Concerned City's Security Measures Will Hurt Them


Some people in Charlottesville, Va., do not like how their city is preparing for this weekend's anniversary of Unite the Right, a deadly rally that left one person dead and scores injured. Critics said law enforcement didn't do enough to protect the public. And this year, security is tight. And business owners say they're already hurting. From member station WVTF, Sandy Hausman reports.


SANDY HAUSMAN, BYLINE: Charlottesville's Downtown Mall is considered the heart of the community, a brick-paved promenade serenaded by buskers, bounded by tall trees, fountains and dozens of locally owned shops and restaurants.

JOAN FENTON: These are mom-and-pop businesses.

HAUSMAN: Joan Fenton is president of the Downtown Business Association.

FENTON: Somebody walks down the mall and says, hey, is there a Starbucks? And you go, no. We've got four great - or five great places to go get coffee, but we don't have that chain here.

HAUSMAN: But the mall is located near a Confederate statue of Robert E. Lee, a focal point of last year's unrest in the city. And some people are now afraid to come downtown.

MIKE RODI: Even now, if you do a Google search for Charlottesville and look at the images that come up, they're pretty terrifying.

HAUSMAN: Mike Rodi owns a restaurant called Rapture. He says this city's troubles hurt business and left many merchants in debt.

RODI: I've talked to several businesses who have maxed out credit lines, who have borrowed money and also cut employees.

HAUSMAN: And this weekend, the city plans to limit access to the Downtown Mall, prompting merchant complaints to police Chief RaShall Brackney.


CHIEF RASHALL BRACKNEY: And what I've said repeatedly to them, my planning is not geared around tax base. My planning is not geared around incomes and revenues. My planning is geared around the fact that Charlottesville was extremely vulnerable based on the planning last year, and I cannot allow that to happen again this year.

HAUSMAN: Brackney is new to the job. So are police chiefs for the state and university. Charlottesville has a new mayor. Virginia has a new governor. And nobody's taking any chances. Officials are closing streets, restricting parking, shutting down recreation centers, swimming pools, even the farmer's market. Residents like Tanesha Hudson complained to the city council.


TANESHA HUDSON: Here we are, about to shut down a whole city - right? - and let these people feel like they won. I can't speak for everybody else, but they don't scare me.

HAUSMAN: The restrictions will be lifted Monday. And the city will bankroll a $75,000 marketing campaign to try to bring customers back. For NPR News, I'm Sandy Hausman in Charlottesville. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sandy Hausman joined our news team in 2008 after honing her radio skills in Chicago. Since then, she's won several national awards for her reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Radio, Television and Digital News Association and the Public Radio News Directors' Association.
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