White Supremacist rally triggers violence in Charlottesville

  • Three people are dead and at least 35 have been treated for injuries following a white supremacist rally and a helicopter crash in the Charlottesville, Virginia, area.
  • At one point a car plowed into an anti-racist group amid clashes between white supremacist activists, some armed, and anti-fascist protesters.
  • Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) declared a state of emergency on Saturday afternoon.
  • President Donald Trump blamed “many sides” for the unrest.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a federal investigation into the violence at the rally. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia have also launched a civil rights investigation into the fatal car crash.

Thousands of white supremacists and armed militia groups faced off with counter-protesters during a violent and chaotic rally that raged for hours in this Virginia city on Saturday, resulting in the deaths of at least three people.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who declared a state of emergency Saturday afternoon, condemned the violence during a press conference that evening, sending a message to the white supremacists.

“Our message is plain and simple: Go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth,” he said. “Shame on you.”

“Please go home and never come back. Take your hatred, and take your bigotry,” McAuliffe added.

Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas said 35 people were treated for injuries by city personnel on Saturday, with injuries ranging from minor to life-threatening.

Three people died Saturday, including a 32-year-old woman who was hit by a car that plowed into a group of counter-demonstrators and two others who perished in a helicopter crash near the protests.

James Alex Fields Jr., 20, was arrested in connection with the car incident. He was charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count of failing to stop at an accident resulting in a death, police Col. Martin Kumer told HuffPost.

“It was just terrifying,” said 23-year-old Thomas Pilnik, Charlottesville resident who witnesses the crash. “I remember people flying into me, telling me to run and get out of the way and watching people fly like they were just bowling pins.”

As of 10 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, police had made three other arrests related to the rally:

“You came here today to hurt people and you did hurt people,” McAuliffe said at Saturday’s press conference.

Groups in Charlottesville beat each other with flagpoles and bats, threw punches, chanted slogans and used chemical sprays on each other at a downtown park. Some reporters covering the event were doused in raw sewage.

“There was a cloud,” said a witness, who asked not to be named. “Things were flying. Most people managed to get out of the way.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Saturday night that state U.S. Attorney Rick Mountcastle has opened a federal investigation into the violence at the rally, with the full support of the Justice Department.

The state attorney’s office and regional FBI office also announced a civil rights investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deadly car crash.

“The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice,” Sessions said in a statement. “When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.”

The “Unite the Right” rally was promoted by white nationalist Richard Spencer and drew several different groups, including activists from the so-called “alt-right,” Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and other white supremacists, some of whom dressed in militia uniforms and were openly carrying long guns. Counter-demonstrators and anti-fascist groups also attended.

After demonstrations got heated Friday night, tensions were running high even before the rally officially began at noon, with members of the “alt-right” chanting the Nazi phrase “Blood and soil!” and “White lives matter!” as they marched toward Emancipation Park. With Confederate flags and Nazi memorabilia on full display, they also chanted “Fuck you faggots!”

James Allsup, who was in Charlottesville for the “Unite the Right” rally, told Mediaite that,“white people are tired of being told by the cosmopolitan elites that we are the problem.”

“This is the biggest racist rally in recent memory,” a 23-year-old anti-fascist from Michigan, who wouldn’t give his name, told HuffPost. “And we are all out here opposing these motherfuckers and trying to get a temperature check where the right is ― where the far right is at ― and how they’re organizing, and where we can apply radical strategies to defeat fascism.”

Read more at The Huffington Post.