Charlottesville: Woman dead after violence at far-right rally, 2 cops killed in helicopter crash
The death and 19 of the injuries were caused when a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters on Saturday afternoon. Police arrested 20-year-old James Alex Fields, Jr. in connection with the incident.
U.S. President Donald Trump confirmed on Twitter that the deceased was a young woman.
Later on Saturday, two Virginia state policeman were reported dead after their helicopter went down in a wooded area just outside Charlottesville. The helicopter crashed after assisting in a police operation to subdue violent clashes at the rally; however, the exact cause of the crash was yet to be determined.
Charlottesville City Council later voted to allow the city’s police chief to declare a curfew to prevent further unrest.
President Trump tweeted condolences to “the families & fellow officers of the VA State Police who died today,” though city and state officials didn’t confirm the victims’ identities.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday evening, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe told white supremacists and Nazis to “go home and never come back.”
WATCH: Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe tells white ‘supremacists, Nazis to go home’
The clashes began Friday night before the rally, as protesters marched through the University of Virginia campus with torches lit and surrounded a smaller group of protesters stationed around a statue of Thomas Jefferson.
Carrying over into Saturday, men dressed in militia uniforms were openly carrying long guns and shields.
Before 11 a.m., approximately 200 members of the neo-Confederate League of the South, the Traditionalist Workers party and the National Socialist Movement were stopped by additional protesters before continuing towards the southeast gate.
By the time they got through the gate, there were 500 far-right protesters in the park and over 1,000 counter-protesters in the street.
WATCH: Charlottesville police chief comments on violent protest
Skirmishes began to break out between the white nationalist groups and counter-protesters shortly thereafter, as people threw punches, hurled objects and unleashed chemical sprays.
WARNING: Video contains disturbing content not suitable for all viewers. Video shows fights breaking out at white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The violence prompted Gov. McAuliffe to declare a state of emergency and halt the rally. McAuliffe tweeted that the declaration was made in order “to aid state response to violence” at the rally in Charlottesville, about 160 kilometres outside of Washington, D.C.
WATCH: Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer on overcoming ‘hate, intolerance, bigotry’
It later emerged that one person was killed after a silver sedan appeared to be driven into a group of marching counter-protesters.
Right-wing blogger Jason Kessler, who organized the “pro-white” rally to protest the removal of the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a city park, said in an interview Saturday evening that whoever drove the vehicle into the group of counter-protesters “did the wrong thing.”
WARNING: Video contains disturbing content not suitable for all viewers. Video shows the moment a car rams into a group of protesters injuring several people.
“I am heartbroken that a life has been lost here,” Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer said on his Twitter feed. “I urge all people of good will — go home.”
Trump condemned the violence on Twitter, saying “There is no place for violence of this kind in America.”
But some of the white nationalists cited Trump’s victory as validation for their beliefs, and Trump’s critics pointed to the president’s racially tinged rhetoric as exploiting the nation’s festering racial tension.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson noted that Trump for years publicly questioned President Barack Obama‘s citizenship.
“We are in a very dangerous place right now,” he said.
It’s the latest confrontation in Charlottesville since the city about 100 miles outside of Washington, D.C., voted earlier this year to remove a statue of Lee.
In May, a torch-wielding group that included prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer gathered around the statue for a nighttime protest, and in July, about 50 members of a North Carolina-based KKK group traveled there for a rally, where they were met by hundreds of counter-protesters.
Kessler said this week that the rally is partly about the removal of Confederate symbols but also about free speech and “advocating for white people.”
“This is about an anti-white climate within the Western world and the need for white people to have advocacy like other groups do,” he said in an interview.
Charlottesville mayor Signer said he was disgusted that the white nationalists had come to his town and blamed Trump for inflaming racial prejudices.
“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,” he said.
— With files from The Associated Press
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