Concrete barriers and metal fences were put up and police were searching bags at checkpoints.
"Wish it could have been here a year ago, because we probably could have prevented a lot of things from happening. It looked like a war zone a year ago".
The remarks swayed from his comments after last year's "Unite the Right" rally in the city, which led to violence and several deaths, when Neo-Nazi sympathizers and counterprotesters clashed during demonstrations.
Sunday is the anniversary of the violence that erupted on the streets of Charlottesville, where hundreds of rally participants gathered to protest the city's plans to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park that was named after the Confederate general.
The mother of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman who was hit by a vehicle and killed last year, has also spoken publicly leading up to the anniversary.
Among the remembrance events that occurred Saturday was a "morning of reflection and renewal" at UVA that featured musical performances, a poetry reading and an address from University President James Ryan.
A group of more than 200 protesters then marched to another part of campus.
Hundreds of students and activists took to the streets on Saturday evening, as a rally planned for the University of Virginia campus turned into a march through the city.
"People are welcome into the community, people are invited into the community", she said.
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Throughout the day, only three people were arrested on misdemeanor charges, one for trespassing, one for disorderly conduct and one for possessing a prohibited item, the city said. Gov. Northam declared a state of emergency in advance, allowing Charlottesville to have a heavy police presence.
An independent investigation of the rally violence, led by a former federal prosecutor, found the chaos a year ago stemmed from a passive response by law enforcement and poor preparation and coordination between state and city police.
"We are unstoppable, another world is possible", "We remember Heather Heyer" and "Black Lives Matter".
"Last year, I was afraid of the Nazis".
Activists unfurled a banner that read, "Last year they came w/ torches".
Rodland said he felt much safer than past year, when he left town with his family and stayed with his parents after seeing people armed with long rifles walking around outside his home.
Jason Kessler, who abandoned his bid to stage a similar anniversary event in Charlottesville, said in his permit application that he expects 100 to 400 people to participate in his event Sunday afternoon in Lafayette Park, in front of the White House.
Her parents, Susan Bro and Mark Heyer, challenged the mourners to learn from their daughter's love for others and outspokenness.
Bro likened losing a child to standing in shallow water as waves roll continually in. Don't respond to the violence if you can protect yourself without it and do not let your guard down, ' she told CBS News. "Every police action that you will see on Sunday will be done with the ultimate goal of ensuring the safety of everyone that attends", he said. "It makes me feel deeply disturbed that they will be right outside of the White House, but where they are in physical proximity to our president or to this administration isn't really the biggest issue; It's that they feel emboldened to to convene again".