Even before the demonstration in Virginia began last weekend, the police there knew they weren’t going to be able to handle what was coming.

Charlottesville police officers, including Sgt. Jake Via of the investigations bureau, had been contacting organizers and scanning social media to figure out how many demonstrators were headed their way and whether they would be armed.

“The number each group was saying was just building and building,” Via said. “We saw it coming. … Looking at this, I said, ‘This is going to be bad.’”

The protesters’ numbers were too large and the downtown park too small. City officials tried to get the demonstration moved to another, more spacious location, but lost in court after the rally’s organizer, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, alleged his freedom of speech was being infringed.