DEADLY DAY IN VIRGINIA: One dead, 19 hurt after car rams into crowd of protesters at white supremacist rally
At least one person was killed and 19 others were injured Saturday when a car rammed into a group of counter-protesters during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va.
Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer tweeted that he was “heartbroken that a life has been lost here” and urged “all people of good will [to] go home.”
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Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran told the Associated Press that the driver of the car, a man, was in custody. Moran did not provide the driver’s name.
Matt Korbon, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, told the Associated Press several hundred counter-protesters were marching when “suddenly there was just this tire screeching sound.” A silver sedan smashed into another car, then backed up, barreling through “a sea of people.”
The impact hurled people into the air. Those left standing scattered, screaming and running for safety in different directions.
The crash occurred approximately two hours after clashes in which hundreds of people scramed, chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other ahead of the scheduled noon demonstration.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency, which city officials said allowed them to request additional resources to respond to the clashes expected between hundreds of white supremacists and those opposing them.
Before the car crash, local authorities said that just one person had been arrested and eight people had been treated for injuries.
Right-wing blogger Jason Kessler had planned what he called a “pro-white” rally to protest Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a city park.
Oren Segal, who directs the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said multiple white power groups had gathered in Charlottesville, including members of neo-Nazi organizations, racist skinhead groups and Ku Klux Klan factions.
“We anticipated this event being the largest white supremacist gathering in over a decade,” Segal said. “Unfortunately, it appears to have become the most violent as well.”
The white nationalist organizations Vanguard America and Identity Evropa; the Southern nationalist League of the South; the National Socialist Movement; the Traditionalist Workers Party; and the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights also were on hand, he said, along with several groups with a smaller presence.
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.
Clashes also broke out Friday night, when hundreds of white nationalists marched through the University of Virginia campus carrying torches. A university spokesman said one person was arrested and several people were injured. The school announced on Saturday that it would be canceling all scheduled events and programming today. They said the medical center would be open.
President Donald Trump condemned “in the strongest possible terms” what he called an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” after the clashes. He called for “a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives.”
First Lady Melania Trump also tweeted: “Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let’s communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence. #Charlottesville.”
Vice President Mike Pence tweeted shortly after Trump: “I stand with @POTUS against hate & violence. U.S. is greatest when we join together & oppose those seeking to divide us. #Charlottesville”
The Speaker of the House Paul Ryan also tweeted, condemning the protests. “The views fueling the spectacle in Charlottesville are repugnant,” Ryan tweeted. “Let it only serve to unite Americans against this kind of vile bigotry.”
Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer tweeted before Trump’s reaction: “March & rally in Charlottesville against everything the flag stands for. President Trump must condemn in strongest terms immediately.”
The NHL’s Detroit Red Wings released a statement Saturday denouncing the user of their logo at the rally and that they are considering legal action to stop it.
The team said it “vehemently” disagrees with and is not associated with the event.”
A Michigan-based white nationalist group called the Detroit Right Wings uses the Red Wings’ logo.
Signer said he was disappointed that the white nationalists had come to his town and blamed President Donald Trump for inflaming racial prejudices during his campaign last year.
“I’m not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you’re seeing in American today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president.”
Saturday’s violence was the latest confrontation in Charlottesville since the city voted earlier this year to remove the Lee statue.
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.
The city has also renamed Lee Park, where the statue stands, and Jackson Park, named after Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. They are now called Emancipation Park and Justice Park, respectively.
A group called the Monument Fund filed a lawsuit arguing that removing the statue would violate a state law governing war memorials. A judge has agreed to a temporary injunction that blocks the city from removing the statue for six months.
Fox News’ Doug McKelway and The Associated Press contributed to this report.