By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – One suspect was charged late Saturday with second-degree murder and other charges after a woman was killed at a counter protest march to a white nationalist rally in the state of Virginia.
Authorities identified James Alex Fields Jr., 20, as the driver of a car that plowed into a crowd in Charlottesville. An unidentified female pedestrian was killed and dozens of others were injured in the crash.
Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency amid the violent clashes between hundreds of white nationalists and the counter demonstrators.
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 Fields allegedly drove his car into a group of counter-protestors.
Police Chief Al Thomas said some of the 35 victims sustained life-threatening injuries.
Video of the incident shows a car speeding down a narrow street filled with protesters before slamming into protesters and sending them ariborne, ultimately stopping only when it hit a line of cars. Fields 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 in which he said he spoke to President Donald Trump and impressed upon him the need to end hate speech by the country’s leaders.
Officials said separately, two people were killed when a police 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 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