Governor McAuliffe has declared a state of emergency to aid state response to violence at Alt-Right rally in Charlottesville
VIDEO: Car rams into crowd at white supremacist rally in Virginia, 3 dead
A vehicle has plowed into people marching in downtown Charlottesville. Earlier, Virginia declared a local emergency when clashes broke out between white nationalists and counter protests over the removal of a monument.
Authorities are on the scene after a vehicle plowed into a group of people marching peacefully through downtown Charlottesville, in the US state of Virginia. Several hundred protesters had gathered to march when the car drove into a group of them.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) tweeted images from its local chapter showing people with what appeared to be minor wounds.
A witness meanwhile told the AFP news agency that he estimated a dozen people had been hurt in the collision – which he called “intentional.” He added that one female got “tore up” after the car “backed up and they hit again.”
State of emergency
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe posted on his Twitter account Saturday morning local time that a local state of emergency was officially declared in order “to aid state response to violence” at the Charlottesville rally.
“I want to urge my fellow Virginians, who may consider joining either in support or opposition to the planned rally, to make alternative plans.”
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump tweeted that Americans should be “united” and not allow violence to drive divisions.
As many as 6,000 white supremacists, including supporters of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), are expected to descend on the normally sleeping university town of Charlottesville for a second day to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a public park. Charlottesville is situated about 160 kilometers (100 miles) outside of the US capital, Washington, DC.
White supremacists and members of the KKK oppose the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert Lee. They claim it is a benign symbol of southern heritage, but critics call it an overtly racist symbol of slavery.
The Democratic governor said many of the people at the rally will “express viewpoints many people, including me, find abhorrent. As long as that expression is peaceful, that is their right.”
McAuliffe said he had given security forces instructions to act quickly and decisively if violence breaks out.
Hundreds of white nationalists marched Friday night on the Charlottesville campus of the University of Virginia. In a display of overt racism the marchers carried burning torches.
How fascism functions
Burning torches are a medieval symbol of intimidation and were a prominent feature of KKK rallies in the 20th century. But unlike those rallies, where the Klansmen hid their identities behind white masks, Friday’s protesters had no qualms about revealing themselves in public.
The KKK officially endorsed Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, and they have been emboldened by his administration’s fierce crackdown on immigrants.
General Lee led the Confederate South in its bid to secede from the United States in order to, among other things, maintain slavery. Lee, and other people related to the lost civil war, remain widely popular across much of the south, as evidenced by statues and roads commemorating their war-time leaders. The Confederate flag is another potent symbol.
In addition to plans to remove the statue, officials have named Lee Park, where the statue stands, to Emancipation Park.
Many Confederate supporters insist their symbols honor Southern heritage, and reject calls for their removal as “empty political correctness.”
Rally organizer Jason Kessler described Lee as a symbol of white people threatened by immigration and “ethnic cleansing.”
Mimi Arbeit, an organizer of the counter protests, rejected Kessler’s claim that the rally was about freedom of speech.
“Fascism functions,” she said, “by using the institutions of a democracy towards its own ends.”
Several bouts of violence broke out at a white supremacist rally in Virginia Saturday as demonstrators clashed with counter-protesters in the streets surrounding the park where the rally was held. Video of the incidents showed armor-clad, shield-carrying demonstrators trading punches with similarly armed counter-protesters as they marched in the city of Charlottesville.