Charlottesville, Va. — Anti-fascist and anti-racist counterprotestors confronted a planned white nationalist gathering in downtown Charlottesville on Saturday. Multiple angry clashes between groups in the morning resulted in many injuries.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and Virginia State Police moved in to end the protest. The Virginia National Guard was deployed and began patrolling Charlottesville.
But, in the early afternoon, a silver Challenger driving at high speed plowed through a march of anti-racist counterprotestors forming on 4th Street, tossing several people into the air like rag dolls before ramming into the rear end of another car. It appeared the car was driven deliberately into the crowd, then reversed and sped backwards.
One person was killed and 19 people were injured.
Jason Charter, a Washington DC activist, witnessed the car incident as he stood feet from it. “I heard the car screeching and I turned and see it ramming people, throwing them on the windshield and into the air,” he said. “I ran to help people and make sure they were ok and people were everywhere screaming medic.”
Charter said that moments after the car backed up, medics were on the scene helping the inured. He was shaken up by the incident.
As many as 30 right-wing groups, led by Alt-Right personality Richard Spencer and accompanied by known supremacist David Duke, rallied at Emancipation Park over city plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
The clashes erupted almost from the start of the permitted protests, which began at 10 a.m. Elements from the KKK, Neo-Nazis and the Alt-Right, were met at every turn by about 1,000 counterprotesters.
Mace and tear gas was sprayed with bottles, sticks and smoke grenades thrown by White Nationalists toward Antifa. Antifa returned volleys as White Nationalists waded into the Antifa to attack them with sticks and smoke grenades.
Police formed lines between two rows of barricades, separating Nationalists from counterprotesters. But for an unknown reason police pulled back as more Nationalists arrived, marching in a column down Market Street to confront Antifa. It was at this point that the confrontations saw their most bloody moments.
White supremacists have descended on Charlottesville since City Council voted to take down a statue of General Lee in an effort to remove Southern Heritage symbols of the Civil War. On Friday night, Neo-Nazis carried torches through the Grounds of the University of Virginia, chanting Nazi Germany slogan “Blood and Soil.” They attacked, beat and maced anti-racist protestors. Conflict also broke out when anti-fascists confronted White Nationalists at the Lee statue.
Update: A police helicopter which had been monitoring the protests crashed following the dispersal. Initial reports are that two died in the crash.