Law enforcement in Tampa Bay on alert following violence in Virginia

Virginia State Police cordon off an area around the site where a car ran into a group of protesters after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

TAMPA BAY, Fla. (WFLA) — Local sheriffs say what happened in Virginia this weekend has them on alert.

“You see a lot of violence occurring around the county over this issue, so you have to be ready for that,” said Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells.

Tensions boiled over at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville on Saturday, leaving three dead and dozens injured.

News Channel 8 spoke to a few of our local sheriffs about how they make sure rallies and protests stay peaceful.

“I think the role for the sheriff’s office and law enforcement, in general, is to make sure that everyone has their first amendment right,” Sheriff Wells said. “We need to make sure everyone does that safely.”

Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight says they have a great relationship with the local community, and at protest or rallies, know who is supposed to be there and who may be causing trouble.

“We know who is there; we have a lot of analytic information,” he said. “We are able to recognize those individuals who are standing out. If you are here to create a problem, create a crime or create disgusted within our community you need to leave.”

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