Cry Havoc: Charlottesville and American Democracy Under Siege

PublicAffairs: Perseus. Mar. 2020. 400p. ISBN 9781541736153. $28. POL SCI
Attorney Signer (Becoming Madison) served as mayor of Charlottesville, VA, from 2016–18, two years of political confusion and civil disorder. He explains how conflicts were already rife among various voting blocs, members of city council, local law enforcement, lawyers and the ACLU, and the state of Virginia over a proposal to remove or modify statues of Confederate leaders. In 2017, violence escalated with the Unite the Right rally, which led to the death of Heather Heyer. Signer goes into excruciating detail about the political twists and turns of the crisis as well as the city’s increasingly disordered response. He also focuses on how national politics impacted an already divided city and made it nearly impossible to have a reasoned conversation about free speech, systemic racism, citizen disaffection, and lessons from history. Signer ends the book with promising signs for his city since 2017.
VERDICT A difficult, often dense read, but a valuable case study for civic government and ethics collections.
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