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.
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 down a car plowed into a group of counter-protestors, potentially killing one.
It is unclear if the incident targeted the group, or was a traffic-related accident.
“We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!” President Donald Trump tweeted.
White nationalists were protesting the looming removal of a Robert E. Lee monument from the 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 they 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