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Officials: White nationalist rally linked to 3 deaths

By Associated Press

This article was originally published August 12, 2017 at 11:38 a.m. Updated August 12, 2017 at 8:44 p.m.


People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. 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. (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP)

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — 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.

The driver 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 said they treated 35 patients 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, Virginia, and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates of Quinton, Virginia, 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.

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.

It's the latest hostility in Charlottesville since the city about 100 miles outside of Washington, D.C., voted earlier this year to remove a statue of Lee.

In May, a torch-wielding group that included prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer gathered around the statue for a nighttime protest, and in July, about 50 members of a North Carolina-based KKK group traveled there for a rally, where they were met by hundreds of counter-protesters.

Kessler said this week that the rally is partly about the removal of Confederate symbols but also about free speech and "advocating for white people."

"This is about an anti-white climate within the Western world and the need for white people to have advocacy like other groups do," he said in an interview.

Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer said he was disgusted that the white nationalists had come to his town and blamed Trump for inflaming racial prejudices.

"I'm not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you're seeing in American today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president," he said.

Charlottesville, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is a liberal-leaning city that's home to the flagship UVA and Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.

The statue's removal is part of a broader city effort to change the way Charlottesville's history of race is told in public spaces. The city has also renamed Lee Park, where the statue stands, and Jackson Park, named for Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. They're now called Emancipation Park and Justice Park, respectively.

For now, the Lee statue remains. A group called the Monument Fund filed a lawsuit arguing that removing the statue would violate a state law governing war memorials. A judge has agreed to temporarily block the city from removing the statue for six months.

Read Sunday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.


Comments on: Officials: White nationalist rally linked to 3 deaths

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RBear says... August 12, 2017 at 11:59 a.m.

Why after all these years do these people still exist? Is it so difficult for them to even consider racial harmony? I have no tolerance for these groups and anyone who supports them. The fact that they are protesting the removal of those leaders of the rebellion shows how important that removal is now. These people have locked onto those leaders as icons. This is not about Southern heritage other than a heritage I wish to see abolished.

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23cal says... August 12, 2017 at 12:45 p.m.

"Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer said he was disgusted that the white nationalists had come to his town and blamed President Donald Trump for inflaming racial prejudices with his campaign last year.

"I'm not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you're seeing in American today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president."
* mean the cockroaches coming out now isn't just coincidence? Like the racist and white nationalist support for Trump isn't just a coincidence?

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23cal says... August 12, 2017 at 12:57 p.m.

Remember, all of this started because the city of Charlottesville removed a statue of Robert E. Lee from that park and that infuriated these people because it negated their "heritage." Also remember, celebrating the confederacy had nothing to do with racism, nor did the Civil War. And what better way to prove that than by having KKK and racist Nazis march for white people in response?

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ARMNAR says... August 12, 2017 at 1:17 p.m.

Trump's base.

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djigoo says... August 12, 2017 at 2:36 p.m.

"This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.” David Duke, 8/12/17

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dearlo says... August 12, 2017 at 3:11 p.m.

I believe that everyone is equal but with that said I don't like to see history changed, it is what it is! why do we have BLM, Black Beauty Pageant, Black History Month, Black Award Shows streets renamed, etch.. Slavery was wrong but the South didn't start it. To each his own believes and I want history to stay the same. people should stop living In the past because no race of people are better than any other. our way of life is our right too. so sick and tied of certain groups trying to remake America their way. The non religion sure have no problem using our money In God We Trust!!!!

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PopMom says... August 12, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

The City of Charlottesville has a right to remove or add statues as they please. Trump has stirred up much of this hate. He can't really denounce the alt right movement while Bannon and Miller work in the White House. Anybody who voted for Trump should be ashamed.

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RBear says... August 12, 2017 at 3:33 p.m.

dearlo, I'd respond but that's the biggest bunch of rambling nonsense I've seen in a while. You do understand removal of a statue honoring a rebellious general is not eradicating history. The statue has nothing to do with history. It has everything to do with venerating a person who represents a class of people who fought to preserve slavery. Slavery may not have started in the South, but it ended with the South fighting to preserve it.

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NoUserName says... August 12, 2017 at 4:23 p.m.

I disagree Pop. While I'm not one of those that blames Obama for everything under the sun, I've been saying this was coming long before Trump declared his candidacy due to a lot of what happened under Obama's watch. The beer summit. Trayvon. Holder's JD going hard to find something to prosecute in incidents like Wilson/Brown while failing to investigate when the colors were reversed. Fact is that Obama set race relations way back. Which is ridiculous given that the country came far enough to elect a black man president. If Trump gets any blame, it's for capitalizing on that unrest rather than helping to quell it.

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PopMom says... August 12, 2017 at 4:39 p.m.

One of the leaders of the white supremacist march is wearing an Arkansas Engineering shirt. I wonder who that dude is.

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