Aug. 12 (UPI) — The mayor of Charlottesville, Va., said one person was killed Saturday when a car plowed into a group of pedestrians during the second day of white nationalist protests.
While officials have not described the incident as a deliberate attack, cellphone video from witnesses shows the vehicle, a gray Ford Mustang, driving at high speed into a narrow street crowded with protesters opposing the white nationalists who flooded Charlottesville for one of the movement’s largest protests in several years.
After entering the crowd, the car reversed back down the street, revealing severe front-end damage and a smashed windshield.
Virginia State Police said the driver was detained. They have not released his identity, or that of the person killed. They said 19 others were injured.
“I am heartbroken that a life has been lost here. I urge all people of good will — go home,” Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer said on Twitter.
Another 15 people were injured in street brawls that erupted as the chaotic scene unfolded Saturday afternoon.
President Donald Trump condemned the violence in a tweet: “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!”
The violence happened after prominent members of the white nationalist movement called for a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. Officially, the rally was sparked by a decision to remove a Confederate monument from a local park. Similar disputes have sparked local protests in cities across the South.
In Charlottesville, neo-Nazis waved swastika flags, sported Hitler T-shirts and carried signs advocating racism, xenophobia and homophobia. Members of the Ku Klux Klan attended in robes and hoods.
“Alt-right” figure Richard Spencer and former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke were among the leaders in attendance.
Counter-protesters wore shirts and carried signs for the Black Lives Matter movement and other groups.
Presaging Saturday’s violence was another far-right rally Friday night at the campus of the University of Virginia, which included physical encounters between far-right protesters carrying torches and anti-racist counter-protesters.
After Friday’s events, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency Saturday morning “to aid state response to violence at alt-right rally in Charlottesville” as authorities, including police and members of the National Guard, blocked off sections of the city and cleared Emancipation Park, home to the Civil War monument, the Daily Progress reported.
Officially, the rally never began, though the crowds from both sides clashed.
Police initially declared an unlawful assembly at Emancipation Park at 11:35 a.m., just before the scheduled noon start time for the rally. City officials expected thousands of demonstrators to attend.
Police used megaphones to order protesters out of the park.
Members of a self-described militia, dressed in camouflage and armed with long guns, said they intended to keep the peace between opposing protesters.
After the park was cleared, protesters carrying Confederate flags, Nazi symbols and other anti-Semitic signs marched to McIntire Park, a larger location where city officials had previously tried to move the rally. A number of smaller skirmishes took place there, as well.
The University of Virginia, where Friday’s torch-lit rally took place, canceled all scheduled events and programming on Saturday.
“Due to the ongoing public safety concerns in downtown Charlottesville and as a result of both the City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle declaring a local state of emergency, the University of Virginia is cancelling all scheduled events and programming today effective at noon,” the university said.