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Cry Havoc

Cry Havoc

Charlottesville and American Democracy Under Siege

The former mayor of Charlottesville delivers a vivid, first-person chronicle of the terror and mayhem of the August 2017 “Unite the Right” event, and shows how issues of extremism are affecting not just one city but the nation itself.

The deadly invasion of Charlottesville, Virginia, by white nationalist militias in August 2017 is a microcosm of the challenges facing American democracy. No one is better placed to tell the story of what really happened, and to draw out its larger significance, than Michael Signer, then Charlottesville’s mayor.

Signer, a lawyer, historian, political theorist, and public servant, sets the events on the ground–the lead-up to August’s “Unite the Right” rally, the days of the weekend itself, the aftermath-into the larger context of a country struggling to find its way through the sturm und drang of the Trump era.

He confronts some of the most pressing questions of our moment. How do we:
  • Reconcile free speech with the need for public order?
  • Maintain the values of pragmatism, compromise, even simple civility, in a time of intensification of extremes on the right and the left?
  • Address systemic racism through our public spaces and memorials?
  • Do something about the widespread disaffection with institutions and a democracy that seems to be faltering and turning on itself?

The siege of Charlottesville shows how easily our communities can be taken hostage by forces intent on destroying democratic norms and institutions. But Signer concludes with a stirring call for optimism, pointing out, with evidence drawn from Charlottesville and work it has spurred since, that even this tragedy contains an opportunity to bolster democracy from within and defend our very ability to govern.
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Genre: Nonfiction / Political Science / Political Ideologies / Radicalism

On Sale: March 10th 2020

Price: $28 / $35 (CAD)

Page Count: 400

ISBN-13: 9781541736153

What's Inside

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Reader Reviews


"[D]eeply introspective...A complex, disturbing, valuable tale of racial disharmony, government failure, and one man's frantic attempts to save the day."
Kirkus Reviews
"Mike Signer does something remarkable in Cry Havoc. He takes responsibility. With candor and integrity, he describes his actions, his omissions, his ambitions, and his limits as a mayor in the midst of a consuming public crisis. This book will make every reader ask, 'What would I do? What choices would I make?' And it will make every reader a more wise and skillful citizen."—Eric Liu, CEO, Citizen University and author of You're More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen's Guide to Making Change Happen
"Former Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer, in providing an account of the tribulations in the lead-up to and aftermath of the Unite the Right rally, demonstrates the pain and struggle of a community defending itself from hate and constructing a collective path together toward a vision of belonging. He also offers an intimate glimpse into what it takes to carry the immense weight of responsibility and accountability to the public amid such turbulence. In doing so, Signer gives his readers firsthand insight into the necessary conflict that is at the heart of true bridging. But that through compassion, faith, and commitment to one another, extremism can be overcome toward a broad expansion of the circle of human concern."—john a. powell, director of the Haas Institute for a Fair & Inclusive Society, University of California, Berkeley
"Mike Signer held the front and center seat during Charlottesville's darkest moments when our nation's democracy, values, and rule of law faced the worst of challenges. His brilliant, inspiring, accurate, and timely account is a must-read for every American concerned about the future of democracy, the civility of our discourse, and the harm of extremism."—Khizr Khan
"Cry Havoc chronicles how Charlottesville, VA, was torn apart by violence and murder in the summer of 2017 and how the small town has come together to heal since then. By telling the deep story of the rally that shocked the world, Mike Signer, the mayor of Charlottesville and an influential political theorist, not only takes us deep inside the life of one small American town; he points to lessons that could inspire the whole country to move towards a better future."—Yascha Mounk, author of The People vs. Democracy
"Michael Signer's Cry Havoc goes behind the scenes as neo-Nazis descended on Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017, transforming a small college town into an international flashpoint of extremist hatred and racial confrontation. The former mayor recounts, from his firsthand vantage point, the events of that tragic and dramatic weekend. This well-written, disturbing volume serves as a warning about what may be coming in America's increasingly divided society. We would be wise to heed the lessons of Charlottesville before one small city's dreadful conflict becomes the blueprint for violence from coast to coast."—Larry Sabato, director, UVA Center for Politics
"Since the Unite the Right rally, I have tried to understand the events around the murder of my daughter. Cry Havoc is an important narrative of Charlottesville, providing unique insights to help make sense of the senseless, and moving us to a place of hope and courage."—Susan Bro, cofounder and president, Heather Heyer Foundation
"Incredibly compelling. Cry Havoc connects a richly detailed personal story of local politics with national trends that should scare us all."—P. W. Singer, author of LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media
"Mike Signer had a unique vantage point on one of the inflection points of our time: the white-supremacist rallies and violence in Charlottesville in 2017. In this important new book, he explores where we've been, where we are, and--most important--where we should be headed if we can summon our better angels."—Jon Meacham, author of The Soul of America
"Cry Havoc vividly recounts the disturbing events in Charlottesville and reminds us that the battle to preserve our democratic institutions is an enduring part of our national experience. Essential reading in a time of national peril."—Robert Dallek, author, of An Unfinished Life: JFK, 1917-1963
"Charlottesville, Virginia, my hometown, is now an emblem and a microcosm of the tensions and divisions roiling our nation. Mayor Michael Signer found himself in the center of a growing brushfire that culminated in the murderous Unite the Right demonstration in August 2017. Here he tells a difficult, unsparing, but often engrossing story that illuminates just how hard it can be to face our past while also finding a healing and hopeful path forward."—Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO, New America
"A report from the frontlines of Trump's America. Polarization, race, politicized memory, violence, and good-willed efforts of citizens and politicians to navigate it all. Mike Signer gives us his on-the-ground view of 'Charlottesville under siege' revealing the deep vulnerabilities and promise of American democracy."
Daniel Ziblatt, Harvard University, coauthor of How Democracies Die

"An important study of the intellectual and psychological development of a young Madison who believed that leaders should forsake self-interest in promoting the common good."—Library Journal
"Our nation owes huge debts to Madison, and today's civic leaders owe a huge debt to Signer for reminding us why."—Tim Kaine, US Senator
"Superb ... lively and engaging."—Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO, New America Foundation
"Sound and revealing."—Wall Street Journal
"Intellectual history at its essential biography of an essential Founder."—Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Engaging...Highly recommended."—CHOICE
"A bull's-eye."—Richard Brookhiser, The Daily Beast
"Highly readable and often insightful."—Kirkus Reviews
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