Charlottesville police refused to help synagogue as neo-Nazis rioted
Jewish worshippers in Charlottesville have been left vulnerable after police refused to provide them with protection amid the rise of neo-Nazism in the city, according to a local community leader.
Alan Zimmerman, the president of Charlottesville's Centre of Jewish Community, Learning and Worship, said the synagogue had requested police stand outside the place of worship to protect local Jewish residents on the day of the Shabbat on Saturday.
Police had denied them an officer to cover morning services, and had "broken their promise" of providing them with an observer near the building, he said.
"We did not ask for protection of our property, only our people as they worshipped," he wrote in a blog post.
While nobody was hurt, the neo-Nazis did have their eyes on the premise.
"For half an hour, three men dressed in fatigues and armed with semi-automatic rifles stood across the street from the temple. Had they tried to enter, I don't know what I could have done to stop them," Zimmerman wrote.
|Neo-Nazis carried swastika flags on the march
which passed the synagogue [Getty]
With tensions running high, the three armed men kept staring at Zimmerman as he stared back, not knowing what to anticipate.
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Community leaders had been forced to hire a private security guard to stand watch.
"Perhaps the presence of our armed guard deterred them. Perhaps their presence was just a coincidence, and I'm paranoid. I don't know."
There were further direct instances of anti-Semitism throughout the day, as parades of neo-Nazis passed the building, shouting, "There's the synagogue!" then chanting "Seig Heil" and similar, Nazi-inspired anti-Semitic terms.
Some even carried flags with swastikas and other Nazi symbols.
Matters were only made worse for Charlottesvile's Jewish community after they found out that a neo-Nazi website had called for marchers to burn their synagogue down.
They were also forced to cancel an event later that day after yet again being denied police protection.
"Local police faced an unprecedented problem that day, but make no mistake, Jews are a specific target of these groups," Zimmerman said. He urged the local community to protect themselves, and rely on "the grace of God" after receiving little support from the police.