ADDS TRUMP’S REMARKS; CASUALTY FIGURES
By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency Saturday amid violent clashes between hundreds of white nationalists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville that resulted in at least three deaths.
Riot gear-clad police officers ordered protesters to disperse after clashes quickly escalated in the southern city’s Emancipation Park. But as the climate calmed a car plowed into a group of counter-protestors resulting in multiple casualties.
Police Chief Al Thomas confirmed the death of one female pedestrian and injuries to 35 others, including some who sustained life-threatening injuries.
Thomas said the male driver was arrested shortly after the collision and although an investigation is ongoing, the crash is being treated as a criminal homicide.
Video of the incident shows a car speeding down a narrow street filled with pedestrians before slamming into them and sending several airborne. The driver stopped, only when he hit a line of cars. He, then, put the car in reverse and zoomed away.
McAuliffe told the white supremacist marchers to “go home and never come back,” during a news conference. He also said he spoke to President Donald Trump and impressed upon him the need to end hate speech by the country’s leaders.
Officials said two police officers were killed when a helicopter involved in handling the protests crashed just outside the city.
Speaking from his New Jersey golf club, Trump condemned “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides”.
White nationalists were in Charlottesville, protesting the looming removal of a Robert E. Lee monument from Emancipation Park.
Lee was the rebel confederacy’s top general in America’s civil war, and calls have grown for confederate symbols to be removed from public spaces after a series of violent attacks that have been tied to white nationalists/supremacists, which regularly use such imagery.
On Friday night hundreds marched through the University of Virginia campus holding torches in a scene reminiscent of Ku Klux Klan gatherings that haunted America’s civil rights movement.
“You will not replace us”, and “Jew will not replace us” were chanted as an eerie torchlight glow enveloped the campus.
Former Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke attended the rally as well as other prominent white nationalist leaders.
University President Teresa A. Sullivan strongly condemned the rally, saying in a statement she was “deeply saddened and disturbed by the hateful behavior displayed by torch-bearing protestors that marched on our Grounds”.
The two-day protest is thought to be the largest recent gathering of white nationalists.
Activists have warned of an emboldening of the group since Trump won last year’s presidential race. And hate incidents targeting minorities have soared this year.
*Anadolu Agency photographer Samuel Corum contributed to this report