Saturday, 12 August 2017

Politics: 3 dead following white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia

Counter-protesters lock arms in the middle of a street as police try to disperse them, after members of the Ku Klux Klan rallied in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

One witness described the incident as "absolutely intentional."

A 32-year-old woman is dead and nine others were injured after a driver plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters in Charlottesville on Saturday afternoon, Police Chief Al Thomas said.

Two Virginia state police officers were also killed in a helicopter crash outside Charlottesville. Officials said the deaths were linked to the rally, but they did not clarify the connection.

The car crash had occurred following a day of violent and chaotic clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters. The driver of the car has been arrested, and Thomas said at a press conference Saturday evening that the injuries from the crash range from minor to life-threatening.

He added that police are treating the car crash as a criminal homicide investigation.

An additional 14 people were injured in individual altercations, and none of them were a result of clashes with police officers, he said.

"The premeditated violence that our community experienced today was completely unacceptable," Thomas said, adding that the Virginia National Guard had been deployed at one point to disperse the crowds.

At the press conference, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe delivered a harsh rebuke of the white nationalists who attended the rally.

“You came here today to hurt people. And you did hurt people. My message is clear: we are stronger than you,” he said.

“I have a message to all the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today: My message is go home. You are not wanted in this commonwealth. Shame on you ... You are anything but a patriot."

The protests that began Friday evening and continued on Saturday accompanied a "Unite the Right" rally that was called by white nationalists in response to a plan to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from a park in Charlottesville, Virginia.

One of the counter-protesters who was hit described the scene to a reporter shortly after. "There were just a few cars that counter-protesters were blocking," the man said.

He then said that the driver of the car was "honking their horn" and then "they were just, like, bulldozing through people."

Another witness had two friends who were hit by the car and had to take them to the hospital. The witness described the incident as "absolutely intentional."

"A packed street and a car comes speeding down, at least 40 mph and rams into everyone, backs up and does it again," they said in a text message to Outline staff writer William Turton.

"I am furious & heartsick by the car crash that has injured many," Signer tweeted. "Please all-go home to your families. We can work tomorrow. GO HOME! PLEASE!"

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency earlier on Saturday, as clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters continued to escalate.

Warning: The footage below contains graphic content and may be disturbing to some viewers

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