At least one person is dead after a driver intentionally plowed into a group of anti-fascist protesters hitting up to 20 people in Charlottesville, Virginia, after violent clashes erupted between white nationalists and activists on Saturday.
Video shows the Dodge Charger accelerating into the crowd throwing bodies into the air as people scream before reversing at high speed – sending 19 people to the hospital for their injuries and leaving one dead.
It came after violent clashes erupted as hundreds of white supremacists including armed militias marched into Charlottesville sparking violent confrontations with the counter protesters. Police cleared the scene with tear gas but the violence continued.
Horrifying video from the scene of the car attack shows blood spattered on the vehicle’s windshield as victims desperately screamed out for medical help in the aftermath of the smash.
A counter protester had allegedly thrown a rock at the car, causing the driver to swivel around and ram into people and cars in its way, before driving off with someone’s shoe attached to its bumper.
There has been one person arrested in connection to the earlier violence but it remains unclear if the driver of the car has been apprehended.
In addition to the dozen of people hurt in the accident, at least eight people were already being treated for their injures during other destructive clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters at Emancipation Park before the controversial Unite the Right rally.
President Trump admonished the day’s tragic events, saying in a press conference: ‘We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, violence, on many sides… The hate and division must stop, and must stop right now.’
Trump took a break from his time in Bedminister to condemn the violence in Charlottesville but also took the time to announce the signing of legislation to expand a veterans health care program.
He said: ‘We have to respect each other, ideally we have to love each other.’
Trump had earlier tweeted about the violence that erupted amid the white supremacist march. He tweeted that ‘we ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for.’ He then wrote ‘There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!’
The White House was silent for hours about the clashes except for a solitary tweet from First Lady Melania Trump. The president has received previous criticism for being slow to condemn acts of hate done in his name.
The crash occurred approximately two hours after violent clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters earlier that day during the planned Unite the Right rally.
Hundreds were seen stomping through the city, wearing militia uniforms, waving flags and chanting ‘Blood and Soil’ as they made their way towards the event on Saturday morning.
Counter-protesters flocked to the march in retaliation against the white nationalists, neo-Confederates and alt-right activists, screaming: ‘We’re here, we’re gay, we fight the KKK!’
First Lady Melania Trump tweeted: ‘Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let’s communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence.’
The protest hadn’t officially started but social media videos showed the rally was escalating as people were seen throwing objects, breaking out into fights and people spraying mace into the crowd.
Arrests were made after police in riot gear attempted to clear the park and a group of protesters pushed back against them, while the battle between the two protester groups continued to rage on in the streets of the city.
Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer had denounced the ‘cowardly parade of hatred, bigotry, racism, and intolerance march down the lawns of the architect of our Bill of Rights’ and warned for residents to stay away from the rally.
Police were in position at Emancipation Park and downtown Charlottesville by 6am as they prepared for the rally.
Between 4,000 and 6,000 people from groups including white nationalists, neo-Confederates and alt-right activists were expected to protest at the park, which had recently been renamed from Lee Park.
Right-wing blogger Jason Kessler planned what he called a ‘pro-white’ rally to protest Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Supporters and counter-protesters screamed, chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other. Men dressed in militia uniforms were carrying shields and openly carrying guns.
The protest hadn’t yet begun when two people were seriously injured and protesters reportedly deployed pepper spray, according to state police.
Social media videos show the crowd throwing bottles and objects as police film the interaction from behind fences but don’t intervene.
Brawls broke out as people in militia gear tackled others to the ground and began throwing punches.
Christopher Mathias, a reporter for the Huffington Post tweeted: ‘Just witnessed a violent fight in a parking garage. Nazi dude pulled a gun. Some bad injuries.’
Officials declared a local emergency shortly after 11am. Colleen Cook, 26, stood on a curb shouting at the rally attendees to go home.
Cook, a teacher who attended the University of Virginia, said she sent her black son out of town for the weekend.
‘This isn’t how he should have to grow up,’ she said.
Cliff Erickson leaned against a fence and took in the scene. He said he thinks removing the statue amounts to erasing history and said the ‘counter protesters are crazier than the alt-right. Both sides are hoping for a confrontation,’ he said.
In response to the day’s events, the University of Virginia announced on Saturday afternoon that all scheduled events and programming would be canceled.
The announcement stated: ‘This cancellation includes all academic programming, the scheduled community discussions taking place in the University Libraries, and all UVA Athletic events and programming. The University is monitoring the developments in Charlottesville and continues to coordinate with state and local law enforcement.’
The city announced earlier this week that the rally must be moved out of Emancipation Park to a larger one, citing safety reasons. The rally and counter-protests wereexpected to draw thousands of people.
Kessler sued, saying the change was a free speech violation. The city said in a statement that it would abide by the judge’s decision.
Kessler had led a torch lit procession through the University of Virginia campus on Friday night with burning torches, ending at the statue of Thomas Jefferson.
Almost 200 white nationalists, neo-Confederates, and alt-right activists, were heard chanting ‘white lives matter’ and ‘Jews will not replace us’.
They clashed with University of Virginia students who held an anti-racist protest, and were seen holding up signs which read: ‘VA students against white supremacists.’
Students on Friday night were heard chanting ‘go home Nazis,’ a reporter from the Washington Post tweeted.
Police say violence broke out between the rival groups and officers swiftly intervened to break up the riot which they ruled was an unlawful assembly on Friday night.
At least one person was arrested and several on campus were treated for minor injuries, the Daily Progress newspaper said. Several of the marchers were also hit with pepper spray.
The protesters’ decision to use flaming torches seemed to be a deliberate one, to bring back the imagery of KKK violence and cross burning.
Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer denounced the ‘cowardly parade of hatred, bigotry, racism, and intolerance march down the lawns of the architect of our Bill of Rights.’
‘Everyone has a right under the First Amendment to express their opinion peaceably, so here’s mine… I am beyond disgusted by this unsanctioned and despicable display of visual intimidation on a college campus,’ he told CNN.
But Friday night was just a taster of things to come as up to 6,000 people are expected to descend on the college town on Saturday for the Unite the Right rally.
Saturday’s rally will gather at the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee at Emancipation Park – a focal point for a number of white supremacist protests since the council voted to remove the structure in April.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has urged Virginians to stay away ahead of Saturday’s rally.
‘In advance of the rally there have been communications from extremist groups, many of which are located outside of Virginia, who may seek to commit acts of violence against rally participants or law enforcement officials,’ he said in a statement.
‘In the event that such violent or unlawful conduct occurs, I have instructed state public safety officials to act quickly and decisively in order to keep the public and themselves safe.
‘I want to urge my fellow Virginians who may consider joining either in support or opposition to the planned rally to make alternative plans.
‘Many of the individuals coming to Charlottesville are doing so in order to express viewpoints many people, including me, find abhorrent.
‘As long as that expression is peaceful, that is their right. But it is also the right of every American to deny those ideas more attention than they deserve.
‘Men and women from state and local agencies will be in Charlottesville tomorrow to keep the public safe, and their job will be made easier if Virginians, no matter how well-meaning, elect to stay away from the areas where this rally will take place.’
The National Guard will be on standby, McAuliffe said.
They will be met by about 1,000 first responders and law enforcement, while the National Guard will be on standby.
Thousands of white nationalists, including supporters of the Ku Klux Klan white supremacist group, and anti-fascist activists are expected to turn out in Charlottesville, a sleepy town planning to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee, who led Confederate forces in the US Civil War.
‘The Charlottesville event could be a potentially historic showcase of hate, bringing together more extremists in one place than we have seen in at least a decade,’ said Oren Segal, director of the Center on Extremism at the Anti-Defamation League, a group that monitors and combats anti-Semitism.
Earlier this week, the city had ordered the rally planned for Saturday to be relocated out of Emancipation Park to a larger one, further out of the city, citing safety reasons.
But Kessler, who organized the rally, said on Twitter that the company’s move amounted to an attack on ‘free speech and civil rights.’
He sued added that the change was a free speech violation and that moving the protest away from the Lee statue undermined his event.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Glen Conrad granted a preliminary injunction Friday in a lawsuit filed against Charlottesville by the right-wing blogger which will allow the rally of white nationalists and other extremists to take place at its originally planned location downtown.
The city said in a statement that it would abide by the judge’s decision.
Mimi Arbeit, an organizer of the planned counter-protests, rejected Kessler’s argument that the rally was about freedom of speech.
‘Fascism functions by using the institutions of a democracy towards its own ends,’ she said by telephone.
On July 8 a few dozen Ku Klux Klan marchers gathered in Charlottesville to protest plans to remove the statue of Lee. But they were outnumbered by hundreds of jeering counter protestors.
This time the extreme right hopes to have a stronger showing thanks to the presence of various leaders of the ‘alt-right’ movement that has been emboldened by Donald Trump’s ascent to the White House.
On Friday, City Manager Maurice Jones revealed this will be the largest Virginia State Police deployment in the state in nearly three decades.
‘These are trying and difficult times for our city and our nation,’ Jones said, according to the Daily Progress. ‘We have deep political and ideological differences, and those differences will play out here in our community this weekend. It will be stressful and it will be tense, but I’m optimistic that cooler heads will prevail and we will ultimately be stronger as a community once this event is over.’
Generally, the white nationalist protesters appear to have come from outside the city, and many local residents have raised fears over Saturday’s event.
Last month, hundreds went to City Hall to demand that the protest was cancelled.
Many local businesses have also declared their stores ‘safe spaces’ while both firms and local people have put up signs showing support for diversity ahead of the event.
However, Kessler has even bigger plans for the city.’
‘We’re going to have bigger and bigger events in Charlottesville,’ he told CNN