700 VSP personnel expected in Charlottesville this weekend for one year anniversary of the deadly Unite the Right rally

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WDBJ7)-- This weekend marks the one year anniversary of the deadly Unite the Right rally. Now, a state of emergency is underway in Charlottesville.

The city continues to prepare for crowds of people gathering to honor Heather Heyer and the two Virginia State Police troopers who died last year.

It doesn't take long to realize it is not a normal weekend in Charlottesville: state police cars are lined up, a barricade surrounds the rotunda and a memorial for Heather Heyer grows by the hour. Signs, her mother, Susan Bro has noticed.

"I wish they'd done more of that last year, but live and learn I guess. We'll go forward from here," said Bro.

The City of Charlottesville is working to learn from last year's tragic lesson.

"Everyone who was involved has come to the table and said we need to do some things differently and one key element of that is working better together," said Brian Wheeler, Director of Communications for the City of Charlottesville.

After a car plowed into a crowd of people, killing Heyer, one of the city's main goals was to separate pedestrians and vehicles.

"But again that's a lesson learned,” said Wheeler. “Last year, people with different views came into conflict and they had implements with which they could hurt themselves."

Reflecting on last year’s rally, the city recognized a need for better communication across public safety agencies.

"Police will also not stand by if they see behaviors that are breaking the law. They are not going to stand by this year,” said Wheeler.

There is a defined security area within downtown. There are two entry points for pedestrians to access the security area at 1st Street S & Water Street and at 2nd Street.

700 Virginia State Police personnel and every local public safety agency will be on hand, monitoring the two established entry points. That plan has made some locals nervous.

"If something were to happen. How are they going to get out?” said Madison Smith, who lives downtown.

"There is a plan for that,” added Wheeler. “There are lots of exit points. And there is a plan for if a large group needs to exit quickly.”

The city has tried to think of everything, preparing for unknowns. All they know for sure is that a big crowd is expected this weekend.

"Hopefully the ones that do come here want to be peaceful and they want to honor Heather Heyer. and they want to stand by the principles that Charlottesville believes in,” said Wheeler.

Even with months of preparation, the city is asking people to have a safety plan of their own.

"At the end of the day, if there is civil unrest we can't guarantee any individual safety. We're telling people to treat it like a major weather emergency. If you don't need to be on the roads, if you don't need to be downtown, then don't be downtown,” said Wheeler.

The following items will be prohibited in the security area downtown: BB Guns, Pellet Guns, Air Rifles or Pistols, Paintball Guns, Pellet Guns, Nunchucks, Tasers, Stun Guns, Heavy Gauge Metal Chains, Lengths of Lumber or Wood, Poles, Bricks, Rocks, Metal Beverage or Food Cans or Containers, Glass Bottles, Axes, Axe Handles, Hatchets, Ice Picks, Acidic or Caustic Materials, Hazardous or Flammable or Combustible Liquids, Skateboards, Swords, Knives, Daggers, Razor Blades or Other Sharp Items, Metal Pipes, Pepper or Bear Spray, Mace, Aerosol Sprays, Catapults, Wrist Rockets, Bats, Sticks, Clubs, Drones, Explosives, Fireworks, Open Fire or Open Flames, and Any Other Item Considered an “Implement of Riot.”