UPDATE: 3 deaths linked to white nationalist rally

UPDATE: 3 deaths linked to white nationalist rally

UPDATED AT 8:41 P.M.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — A car plowed into a crowd of people peacefully protesting a white nationalist rally Saturday in a Virginia college town, killing one person, hurting more than a dozen others and ratcheting up tension in a day full of violent confrontations.

Shortly after, a Virginia State Police helicopter that officials said was assisting with the rally crashed outside Charlottesville, killing the pilot and a trooper.

The chaos boiled over at what is believed to be the largest group of white nationalists to come together in a decade. The governor declared a state of emergency, and police dressed in riot gear ordered people out. The group had gathered to protest plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, and others arrived to protest the racism.

Matt Korbon, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, said several hundred counter-protesters were marching when “suddenly there was just this tire screeching sound.” A silver Dodge Challenger smashed into another car, then backed up, barreling through “a sea of people.”

The impact hurled people into the air. Those left standing scattered, screaming and running for safety in different directions.

James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio, the man accused of driving the Challenger, was later arrested, authorities said.

The turbulence began Friday night, when the white nationalists carried torches though the University of Virginia campus. It quickly spiraled into violence Saturday morning. Hundreds of people threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays. At least one person was arrested in connection.

City officials said the car collision left 19 people injured, and 35 patients were treated altogether.
State Police said in a statement that the helicopter was “assisting public safety resources with the ongoing situation” when it crashed in a wooded area. The pilot, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, 48, of Midlothian, Va., and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates of Quinton, Va., died at the scene.

President Donald Trump condemned “in the strongest possible terms” what he called an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” after the clashes. He called for “a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives.”

Trump said he had spoken with the governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, and “we agreed that the hate and the division must stop and must stop right now.”

But some of the white nationalists cited Trump’s victory as validation for their beliefs, and Trump’s critics pointed to the president’s racially tinged rhetoric as exploiting the nation’s festering racial tension.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson noted that Trump for years publicly questioned President Barack Obama’s citizenship.

“We are in a very dangerous place right now,” he said.

Right-wing blogger Jason Kessler had called for what he termed a “pro-white” rally in Charlottesville, sparked by the monument decision. White nationalists and their opponents promoted the event for weeks.

Oren Segal, who directs the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said multiple white power groups gathered in Charlottesville, including members of neo-Nazi organizations, racist skinhead groups and Ku Klux Klan factions.

The white nationalist organizations Vanguard America and Identity Evropa; the Southern nationalist League of the South; the National Socialist Movement; the Traditionalist Workers Party; and the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights also were on hand, he said, along with several groups with a smaller presence.

On the other side, anti-fascist demonstrators also gathered in Charlottesville, but they generally aren’t organized like white nationalist factions, said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center.  
Many others were just locals caught in the fray.

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 son, who is black, out of town for the weekend.

“This isn’t how he should have to grow up,” she said.

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2 p.m.

Authorities are on the scene after a vehicle plowed into a group of people marching peacefully through downtown Charlottesville.

An Associated Press reporter saw at least one person on the ground receiving medical treatment immediately afterward the incident, which occurred approximately two hours after violent clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters.

The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them.

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1:40 p.m.

President Donald Trump is tweeting about the violence that has erupted amid a white supremacist march in Virginia.

Trump tweeted Saturday 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 demonstrations began Friday in Charlottesville with white nationalists marching through town and while carrying lit torches. The demonstrators then clashed with counter-protesters.

Some of the white nationalists cited Trump's victory as validation for their beliefs.

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.

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1:35 p.m.

The organizer of a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville is encouraging attendees to leave town after authorities declared an unlawful assembly and police ordered people to disperse.

Right-wing blogger Jason Kessler organized Saturday's rally to protest the city's decision to remove a statue of confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Kessler told The Associated Press Saturday that he and other people who were going to speak at the event evacuated with security when police issued the order to disperse.

He says he wants rally attendees to leave town peacefully.

Richard Spencer is a prominent alt-right activist who was scheduled to speak. He says he's also encouraging people to go home.

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12:50 p.m.

First lady Melania Trump is calling for peace after violent clashes broke out at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.

Trump said Saturday on Twitter: "Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let's communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence."

Hundreds of white nationalists and counter protestors faced off Saturday in downtown Charlottesville, with several violent clashes erupting.

It's the latest confrontation in the city since it voted to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a downtown park.

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12:35 p.m.

The NHL's Detroit Red Wings released a statement denouncing the use of their logo at the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and saying they are considering legal action to stop it.

The team says it "vehemently" disagrees with and is not associated with the event. The Red Wings add they are "exploring every possible legal action as it pertains to the misuse of our logo in this disturbing demonstration."

A Michigan-based white nationalist group called the Detroit Right Wings uses the Red Wings' logo. The organization posted on its Twitter account that members had arrived in Charlottesville.

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12:25 p.m.

Virginia's governor has declared a state of emergency in response to a white nationalist rally that is expected to draw up to 6,000 people.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe said via his Twitter account on Saturday morning that the declaration was made in order "to aid state response to violence" at the rally in Charlottesville, about 100 miles outside of Washington, D.C.

It's the latest confrontation in the city since it voted earlier this year to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a downtown park.

The city's manager also declared a local emergency and police ordered people to disperse from the area around the statue after several violent clashes broke out.

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Hundreds of people are facing off in Charlottesville ahead of a white nationalist rally planned in the Virginia city's downtown.

Rally supporters and counter-protesters screamed, chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Saturday morning.

Men dressed in militia uniforms were carrying shields and openly carrying long guns.

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 from a city park. Thousands of people are expected to pack the area.

There were also fights Friday night, when hundreds of white nationalists marched through the University of Virginia campus carrying torches.

A university spokesman said one person was arrested and several people were injured.

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