Charlottesville, Virginia: Chaos and violence turned to tragedy as hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members — planning to stage what they described as their largest rally in decades to “take America back” — clashed with counterprotesters in the streets and a car ploughed into crowds, leaving one person dead and 19 others injured.
The victim was identified as Heather Heyer, who came to downtown Charlottesville with her friends to make a stand against white nationalists who converged on the Virginia college town to demand the city keep a statue honoring a Confederate war hero, her boss said on Sunday.
““All the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today: Go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth.””Share on facebookTweet this
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The 32-year-old paralegal wanted to send a clear message to the neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan sympathizers who planned to stage one of the largest far-right rallies in recent US history that people abhor their views in the city where she was born, he said.
Hours later, two state police officers died when their helicopter crashed at the outskirts of town.
Officials identified them as Berke M.M. Bates of Quinton, Virginia, who was the pilot, and H. Jay Cullen of Midlothian, Virginia, who was a passenger.
State police said their Bell 407 helicopter was assisting with the unrest in Charlottesville.
Bates died one day before his 41st birthday; Cullen was 48.
State of emergency
Governor Terry McAuliffe, who had declared a state of emergency in the morning, said at an evening news conference that he had a message for “all the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today: Go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth.”
Maurice Jones, Charlottesville’s African-American city manager, looked stricken as he spoke.
“Hate came to our town today in a way that we had feared but we had never really let ourselves imagine would,” he said.
State and local officials declined to take reporters’ questions and abruptly left after making statements.
In an emergency meeting Saturday evening, the Charlottesville City Council voted unanimously to give police the power to enact a curfew or otherwise restrict assembly as necessary to protect public safety.
Video recorded at the scene of the car crash shows a 2010 grey Dodge Challenger accelerating into crowds on a pedestrian mall, sending bodies flying — and then reversing at high speed, hitting yet more people. Witnesses said the street was filled with people opposed to the white nationalists who had come bearing Confederate flags and anti-Semitic epithets.
A 32-year-old woman was killed, according to police, who said they were investigating the crash as a criminal homicide.
The driver of the Challenger, James Alex Fields Jr, 20, of Ohio, was arrested and charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count of hit-and-run attended failure to stop with injury, police said.
He is being held without bail and is scheduled to be arraigned on Sunday, Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail Superintendent Martin Kumer said. Police made three other arrests in connection with violence earlier in the day, on charges of assault and battery, disorderly conduct and carrying a concealed weapon.
Records show Fields last lived in Maumee, Ohio, about 24 kilometre southwest of Toledo.
Fields’s father was killed by a drunk driver a few months before the boy’s birth, according to an uncle who spoke on the condition of anonymity. His father left him money that the uncle kept in a trust until Fields reached adulthood.
Factbox: Reactions to Trump’s statement on violence in Virginia
President Donald Trump blamed “many sides” for violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the wake of a white nationalist demonstration, drawing swift reactions.
Democrats and some Republicans called on him to specifically denounce white supremacy and racially motivated hate by name. Vice-President Mike Pence supported the president’s speech. A white supremacist website praised the comments.
What Trump said:
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” Trump said. “It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long, long time.”
What others are saying:
- “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.” - Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer, a Democrat.
- “Mr. President - we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.” - Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., on Twitter.
- “Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists” - Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on Twitter.
- “@POTUS needs to speak out against the poisonous resurgence of white supremacy. There are not “many sides” here, just right and wrong.” - Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., on Twitter.
- “As @POTUS Trump said, “We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation... & true affection for each other.” #Charlottesville” - Vice-President Mike Pence on Twitter.
- “There is only one side. #charlottesville” - Former Vice-President Joe Biden on Twitter.
- “Even as we protect free speech and assembly, we must condemn hatred, violence and white supremacy.” - Former President Bill Clinton.
- “The violence, chaos, and apparent loss of life in Charlottesville is not the fault of ‘many sides.’ It is racists and white supremacists.” - Virginia Attorney-General Mark Herring, a Democrat.
- “We reject the racism and violence of white nationalists like the ones acting out in Charlottesville. Everyone in leadership must speak out.” - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Republican.
- “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home. -OGH” - Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, on Twitter.
- “We must ALL condemn domestic terror & stand together against racism, hate and evils that will tear us apart - Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., on Twitter.