Religious leaders criticize police response in Charlott…

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Among the chaos of the white supremacist rally and apparent car attack that left one dead and 19 others injured, one group in Charlottesville, Virginia, said they were present to maintain the peace: local and national faith leaders.

The leaders are now questioning the response by local and state police officers.

Brian McLaren, a former priest and nationally-known religious author and speaker, traveled from Florida to be part of an effort called “Congregate C’Ville,” which aimed to bring hundreds of faith leaders across the country to Charlottesville, organizer Seth Wispelwey tells CBS News. He says that several hundreds of leaders answered the group’s call.

McLaren says he stood among the white supremacist protesters and counter-demonstrators “to symbolize that faith leaders were going to be in the way of the hate.”

On Sunday morning, Gov. Terry McAuliffe was asked if law enforcement should have done more to protect the demonstrators and counter-protesters. He told CBS News that police officers “came out” and “gave people time to leave the park.”

“As I say today, not one single shot was fired, not one bit of property damage, I’m proud of law enforcement here,” McAuliffe said.

But it was more than a dozen religious leaders who blocked one of two main entrances to Emancipation Park on Saturday, where alt-right and neo-Nazi demonstrator were supposed to enter — among them was Dr. Cornel West.

While fights broke out, pepper-spray flew, and gas canisters were thrown by protesters, McLaren says the “police hung back quite a distance” away from the “center of the action.”

McLaren says he recognizes that police “couldn’t be everywhere” but that “it was clear the police were trying to shut down the protest even before it began.”

Don Gathers, deacon at First Baptist Church in Charlottesville, says the police response was “reprehensible” and an “embarrassment.”

When 20-year-old suspect James Fields, Jr. allegedly drove his gray sportscar into a crowd of counter-demonstrators, faith leaders rushed to the scene, treating those wounded and prayed.

© 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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