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Car Plows Into Crowd as Racial Tensions Boil Over in Virginia Car Hits Crowd After White Nationalist Rally in Charlottesville Ends in Violence
(35 minutes later)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A planned protest in Virginia by white nationalists was abandoned on Saturday after a spate of violence prompted the governor to declare a state of emergency and law enforcement officers to clear the area. CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Violence erupted on Saturday as hundreds of white nationalists had gathered here for a rally and clashed with counterprotesters, resulting in at least one death and prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency.
The demonstration, which both organizers and critics had said was the largest gathering of white nationalists in recent years, turned violent almost immediately and left at least one person dead and a number of people injured. “I am heartbroken that a life has been lost here,” Mayor Mike Signer, said on social media. After the rally at a city park was dispersed, a car plowed into a crowd near the city’s downtown mall, killing at least one person and injuring at least 19 others, according to a spokeswoman for the University of Virginia Medical Center. The authorities did not immediately say whether the episode was related to the white nationalists’ demonstration, but several witnesses and video of the scene suggested that it might have been intentional.
In comments from Bedminster, N.J., President Trump condemned the violence and called for the swift restoration of order. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” he said. Emergency medical personnel treated eight people, the Charlottesville Police Department said. It was not immediately clear how severely they had been hurt. Several area hospitals did not return telephone calls seeking information.
The turmoil began with a march Friday night and escalated Saturday morning as hundreds of white nationalists gathered. Waving Confederate flags, chanting Nazi-era slogans, wearing helmets and carrying shields, they converged on a statue of Robert E. Lee in the city’s Emancipation Park and began chanting phrases like “You will not replace us,” and “Jew will not replace us.” Witnesses said a crowd of counterdemonstrators, jubilant because the white nationalists had left, was moving up Fourth Street, near the mall, when a gray sports car came down the road and accelerated, mowing down several people and hurling at least two in the air.
Hundreds of counterprotesters quickly surrounded the crowd, chanting and carrying their own signs. “It was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Robert Armengol, who was at the scene reporting for a podcast he hosts with students at the University of Virginia. “After that it was pandemonium. The car hit reverse and sped and everybody who was up the street in my direction started running.”
By 11 a.m., the scene had exploded into taunting, shoving and outright brawling. Barricades encircling the park and separating the two sides began to come down, and police temporarily retreated. People were seen clubbing one another in the streets, and pepper spray filled the air. Saturday afternoon, after initially issuing a brief denunciation on Twitter, President Trump, speaking at the start of a veterans’ event at his golf club in New Jersey, again addressed what he described as “the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia.”
The police cleared the area before noon, and the Virginia National Guard arrived as officers began arresting some who remained for unlawful assembly. But fears lingered that the altercation would start again nearby, even as politicians, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, a Democrat, and Representative Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin and the House speaker, condemned the violence. In comments from Bedminister, N.J., President Trump condemned the bloody protests. But he did not specifically criticize the white nationalist rally and its neo-Nazi slogans beyond blaming “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”
A couple of hours later, a car plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters, and a hospital official said at least 19 people were injured. . “It’s been going on for a long time in our country, it’s not Donald Trump, it’s not Barack Obama,” said Mr. Trump, adding that he had been in contact with Virginia officials. After calling for the “swift restoration of law and order,” he offered a call for unity among Americans of “all races, creeds and colors.”
Brennan Gilmore, a 38-year-old Charlottesville resident who came Saturday to oppose the white nationalists, was filming his friends demonstrating three blocks away from the park when he noticed a gray car drive past. The demonstration, which both organizers and critics had said was the largest gathering of white nationalists in recent years, was organized to protest the planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a city park that once bore the name of the Confederate general, but was renamed Emancipation Park.
Mr. Gilmore turned his camera in time to see the car slow as it approached the counterprotesters and then suddenly speed up, ramming into the car in front of it and the crowd itself. The turmoil in Charlottesville began with a march Friday night by white nationalists on the campus of the University of Virginia and escalated Saturday morning as demonstrators from both sides gathered in the park. Waving Confederate flags, chanting Nazi-era slogans, wearing helmets and carrying shields, the white nationalists converged on the Lee statue and began chanting phrases like “You will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us.”
“Bodies went flying up onto the hood of the car and into the air,” Mr. Gilmore said. “It was horrifying.” Hundreds of counterprotesters religious leaders, Black Lives Matter activists and anti-fascist groups known as “antifa” quickly surrounded the crowd, singing spirituals, chanting and carrying their own signs.
Mr. Gilmore continued filming as the gray car backed up quickly to escape the scene. After the car left, Mr. Gilmore ran over to help provide first aid to some of the injured. The morning started peacefully, with the white nationalists gathering in McIntire Park, outside downtown, and the counterdemonstrators including Cornel R. West, the Harvard University professor and political activist gathering at the First Baptist Church, a historically African-American church here. Professor West, who addressed the group at a sunrise prayer service, said he had come “bearing witness to love and justice in the face of white supremacy.”
“The violence and hatred in our society is out of control. We like to think that it’s better than places like Africa and Asia, but it’s not,” said Mr. Gilmore, who worked in Africa as a U.S. State Department foreign service officer before leaving to manage the campaign of Tom Perriello for Virginia governor earlier this year. “I’m worried.” At McIntire Park, the white nationalists waved Confederate flags and other banners. As a photographer took pictures, one of them, who gave his name only as Ted because he said he might want to run for political office some day, said he was from Missouri, and added, “I’m tired of seeing white people pushed around.”
Emergency medical personnel treated eight people after the earlier clashes, the Charlottesville Police Department said. It was not immediately clear how severely they were hurt. Several area hospitals did not return telephone calls seeking information. But by 11 a.m., after both sides had made their way to Emancipation Park, the scene had exploded into taunting, shoving and outright brawling.
The fight was the latest in a series of tense dramas unfolding across the United States over plans to remove statues and other historic markers of the Confederacy. The battles have been intensified by the election of Mr. Trump, who enjoys fervent support from white nationalists. Barricades encircling the park and separating the two sides began to come down, and the police temporarily retreated. People were seen clubbing one another in the streets, and pepper spray filled the air. One of the white nationalists left the park bleeding, his head wrapped in gauze.
The president commented on the violence Saturday afternoon, tweeting, “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!” Declaring the gathering an unlawful assembly, the police had cleared the area before noon, and the Virginia National Guard arrived as officers began arresting some who remained. But fears lingered that the altercation would start again nearby, as demonstrators dispersed in smaller groups.
The protest, billed as a “Unite the Right” rally, was the culmination of a year and a half of debate in Charlottesville over the fate of the Lee statue. A movement to remove it began when an African-American high school student here started a petition. The City Council voted 3 to 2 in April to sell it, but a judge issued an injunction temporarily stopping the move. Within an hour, politicians, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, and the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, a Republican, had condemned the violence.
The first public response from the White House came from the first lady, Melania Trump, who wrote on Twitter: “Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let’s communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Justice Department agents would support local and state officials in an investigation of Saturday’s events.
“This kind of violence is totally contrary to American values and can never be tolerated,” Mr. Sessions said in a statement.
After the rally was dispersed, its organizer, Jason Kessler, who calls himself a “white advocate,” complained in an interview that his group had been “forced into a very chaotic situation.” He added, “The police were supposed to be there protecting us and they stood down.”
The street fights were the latest in a series of tense dramas unfolding across the United States over plans to remove statues and other historical markers of the Confederacy. The battles have been intensified by the election of Mr. Trump, who enjoys fervent support from white nationalists.
Here in Charlottesville, the protest, billed as a “Unite the Right” rally, was the culmination of a year and a half of debate in Charlottesville over the fate of the Lee statue. A movement to remove it began when an African-American high school student here started a petition. The City Council voted 3 to 2 in April to sell it, but a judge issued an injunction temporarily stopping the move.
The city had been bracing for a sea of alt-right demonstrators, and on Friday night, hundreds of them, carrying lit torches, marched on the picturesque grounds of the University of Virginia, founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson. The group included prominent white nationalist figures like Richard Spencer and David Duke, a former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.The city had been bracing for a sea of alt-right demonstrators, and on Friday night, hundreds of them, carrying lit torches, marched on the picturesque grounds of the University of Virginia, founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson. The group included prominent white nationalist figures like Richard Spencer and David Duke, a former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
“We’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump” to “take our country back,” Mr. Duke told reporters Saturday. Many of the white nationalist protesters carried campaign signs for Mr. Trump.“We’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump” to “take our country back,” Mr. Duke told reporters Saturday. Many of the white nationalist protesters carried campaign signs for Mr. Trump.
University officials said one person was arrested and charged Friday night with assault and disorderly conduct, and several others were injured. Among those hurt was a university police officer injured while making the arrest, the school said in a statement.University officials said one person was arrested and charged Friday night with assault and disorderly conduct, and several others were injured. Among those hurt was a university police officer injured while making the arrest, the school said in a statement.
Theresa A. Sullivan, the president of the university, strongly condemned the Friday demonstration in a statement, calling it “disturbing and unacceptable.” Teresa A. Sullivan, the president of the university, strongly condemned the Friday demonstration in a statement, calling it “disturbing and unacceptable.”
Still, officials allowed the Saturday protest to go on — until the injuries began piling up.Still, officials allowed the Saturday protest to go on — until the injuries began piling up.
The city of Charlottesville declared a state of emergency at around 11 a.m., citing an “imminent threat of civil disturbance, unrest, potential injury to persons, and destruction of public and personal property.” The city of Charlottesville declared a state of emergency around 11 a.m., citing an “imminent threat of civil disturbance, unrest, potential injury to persons, and destruction of public and personal property.”
Governor McAuliffe followed with his own declaration an hour later.Governor McAuliffe followed with his own declaration an hour later.
“It is now clear that public safety cannot be safeguarded without additional powers, and that the mostly-out-of-state protesters have come to Virginia to endanger our citizens and property,” Governor McAuliffe said in a statement. “I am disgusted by the hatred, bigotry and violence these protesters have brought to our state over the past 24 hours.” “It is now clear that public safety cannot be safeguarded without additional powers, and that the mostly-out-of-state protesters have come to Virginia to endanger our citizens and property,” he said in a statement. “I am disgusted by the hatred, bigotry and violence these protesters have brought to our state over the past 24 hours.”
The Republican candidate for governor in Virginia, Ed Gillespie, issued his own statement denouncing the protests as “vile hate” that has “no place in our Commonwealth.”The Republican candidate for governor in Virginia, Ed Gillespie, issued his own statement denouncing the protests as “vile hate” that has “no place in our Commonwealth.”
Mr. Ryan agreed. “The views fueling the spectacle in Charlottesville are repugnant,” he said on Twitter. “Let it only serve to unite Americans against this kind of vile bigotry.”Mr. Ryan agreed. “The views fueling the spectacle in Charlottesville are repugnant,” he said on Twitter. “Let it only serve to unite Americans against this kind of vile bigotry.”