Charlottesville clashes: One dead after car drives into crowd

Donald Trump condemns violence in Virginian city over white nationalist event

A car drives into a group of counter-protesters approximately two hours after violent clashes at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Video: Brennan Gilmore

 

At least one person was killed and 34 others injured in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday when white nationalists protesting plans to remove a statue of a Confederate general clashed with counter-demonstrators, officials said.

The violence prompted the governor of Virginia to declare a state of emergency in the city and halt the white nationalist rally.

The clashes saw a car ploughing into a group of counter-protesters, approximately two hours after a violent confrontation between white nationalists and counter-demonstrators at a park.

Several hundred protesters were marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them, sending people flying into the air.

Matt Korbon, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, said counter-protesters were marching when “suddenly there was just this tyre-screeching sound”.

He said a silver vehicle smashed into another car, then backed up, ploughing through “a sea of people”.

The University of Virginia health systems received 20 patients from the scene near the car incident.

One of those people died and 19 were being treated, a spokeswoman said.

The driver of the car has been taken into custody, USA Today reported, citing the state’s secretary of public safety.

“I am heartbroken that a life has been lost here,” Charlottesville mayor Mike Singer said on his Twitter feed. “I urge all people of good will - go home.”

Confederate statue

The nationalists were holding the Unite the Right rally in protest over plans by Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E Lee from Emancipation Park.

Earlier on Saturday, the governor of Virginia declared the state of emergency amid mid-morning clashes ahead of the official rally that left several people injured.

Terry McAuliffe said on Twitter that the declaration had been made in order “to aid state response to violence” in the city.

The city’s mayor also declared a local emergency and local police issued an unlawful assembly alert.

Officials had approved the white nationalist protest march in downtown Charlottesville, but cancelled the event after the outbreaks of violence.

US president Donald Trump condemned the violence on Twitter.

“We must ALL be united & condemn all that hate stands for,” Trump tweeted. “There is no place for this kind of violence in America.”

Twitter

Later on Saturday, Trump told reporters at his New Jersey golf course: “We’re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”

However, Mr Signer said he was disgusted that the white nationalists had come to his city and blamed Trump for inflaming racial prejudices with his election campaign last year.

He said: “I’m not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you’re seeing in America today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president.”

Some had predicted the rally in the city could be the largest white nationalist demonstration in the US in years.

Morning clashes

The clashes on Saturday morning saw supporters of the rally fighting with counter-demonstrators at Emancipation Park, with water bottles hurled from both sides and chemical sprays also being used.

The rally was supposed to start at noon local time, but the scene had grown chaotic by late morning, as white nationalists and neo-Nazis faced off with Black Lives Matter demonstrators and other counter-protesters.

Men dressed in military-style uniforms were seen carrying rifles and shields in the area.

At least eight people were injured and one person was arrested following those clashes.

The organiser of the rally, right-wing blogger Jason Kessler, encouraged attendees to leave town after authorities declared an unlawful assembly and police ordered people to disperse.

He told the Associated Press that he and other people who were going to speak at the event evacuated with security when police issued the order to disperse.

He said he wants rally attendees to leave town peacefully.

Prominent alt-right activist Richard Spencer, who was scheduled to speak at the event, said he was also encouraging people to go home.

Far-right monitoring groups estimated that between 500 and 1,000 people and 30 speakers and groups were due to descend on the downtown area for the event.

Those attending the event were to hear speeches from leading “alt-right” ideologues including the podcaster Mike Peinovich, aka “Mike Enoch”, and Matthew Heimbach, leader of the Traditionalist Worker Party.

Spencer Sunshine, who wrote a report for Political Research Associates assessing the rally, said: “This is a national gathering that the far-right have been planning for months. It’s their big event.”

He said that, far from being a broad slice of the right as planned, due to the reluctance of some “patriot movement” groups to attend, and the commitment of groups such as the National Socialist Movement to the event, “it’s become increasingly Nazified over the last few weeks”.

Counter-protest

Local demonstrators and anti-racist activists from all over the country co-ordinated a counter-protest, which they hoped would dwarf the far-right event.

One group, Congregate Charlottesville, had called for 1,000 faith leaders, and “white clergy, especially”, to assemble for a nonviolent protest. Among those who responded was the intellectual and activist Cornel West, who led a prayer vigil on Friday night, ahead of the rally.

Another group, SolidarityCville, issued a call in late July to “all anti-racists” to come to Charlottesville to oppose the rally, adding that “we must outnumber them in order to #DefendCville”.

“Black Lives Matter and SURJ (Showing up for Racial Justice) chapters will also be opposing the rally.”

These calls have been amplified on a range of other progressive and anti-fascist websites.

On Friday night, hundreds of far-right demonstrators wielded torches as they marched on to the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville and reportedly attacked a much smaller group of counter-protesters who had linked arms around a statue of Thomas Jefferson.

The counter-protesters said they were attacked with swung torches, pepper spray and lighter fluid.

Two male protesters who said they were maced, and did not wish to be named, described far-right protesters moving from verbal abuse, to pushing and shoving protesters, to the noxious spray.

“Someone from the alt-right maced me right in the face - unprovoked,” said one.

“After they maced people they started punching people and hitting them with torches.” Several protesters said a woman using a wheelchair was among those sprayed.

 

On Friday afternoon, police reportedly attended the car park of the city’s Walmart, where they spoke with a Unite the Right speaker, Christopher Cantwell, after they received a report of someone brandishing a gun.

At the same time, police were supervising the construction of barricades about the 20ft-statue of Lee, which has been at the centre of other recent confrontations in Charlottesville.

In February, the city council narrowly voted to remove and sell the statue, and to rename the park in which it stands from Lee Park to Emancipation Park. This was the culmination of a campaign to remove the statue started by a local high-school student, Zyahna Bryant.

The Guardian, New York Times, Reuters and PA