It’s like something out of a bad history book. Just hours after an angry mob of white nationalists descended upon the University of Virginia’s Charlottesville campus, carrying torches and chanting, “You will not replace us,” and, “White Lives Matter,” violence broke out between white supremacists and counter protestors gathered in the city’s Emancipation Park ahead of Saturday’s Unite The Right rally. Thousands of alt-right members, including far-right figurehead Richard Spencer, took to the streets of Charlottesville, brandishing assault rifles and waving Confederate and Nazi flags, with violent clashes erupting between the opposing groups, and resulting in Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declaring a city-wide state of emergency.
Below is the Governor's statement regarding the emergency declaration he authorized this morning: pic.twitter.com/yS1E9mispG— Terry McAuliffe (@GovernorVA) August 12, 2017
Though the Unite the Right rally was scheduled for 12pm EST, by mid-morning, hundreds of white nationalists, as well as apparent neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members, had gathered in Charlottesville.
They flooded the city’s streets and a nearby park, with (mostly) white men wearing helmets, carrying DIY shields, and chanting “Blood and soil,” a well-known Nazi rallying cry.
Our kids were taught about the KKK in history, now they are witnessing them in the present. This time without the hoods. #Charlottesville— Linda Sarsour (@lsarsour) August 12, 2017
Shortly thereafter, amid an outbreak of fist fights and screaming matches between white supremacists and counter demonstrators, city officials declared the event an “unlawful assembly.” A local state of emergency was issued in order to “aid state response to violence.” According to state police, the crowds have been dispersed and an unspecified number of protestors have been arrested. At least two people were injured in the chaos.
Unfortunately, things got even worse as crowds were dispersing.
A car was driven into the crowd of counter-protestors as they started to leave. While it’s not clear yet who’s responsible for the crash, or what their motivations were, videos of the incident seem to a show car driving deliberately into pedestrians. Charlottesville’s Mayor, Mike Signer, reports that at least one live has been lost, and several more injured. You can check out the footage thanks to people who were on the scene, but it’s incredibly disturbing — and terrifying — to watch.
Video of car hitting anti-racist protestors. Let there be no confusion: this was deliberate terrorism. My prayers with victims. Stay home. pic.twitter.com/MUOZs71Pf4— Brennan Gilmore (@brennanmgilmore) August 12, 2017
The chilling display of right-wing extremism arrives on the heels of a haunting after-hours march.
Late last night, torch-wielding white supremacists marched across the campus of the University of Virginia. The aim of both events (besides scaring the crap out of most Americans) was to protest the city’s removal of a statue honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Oh, and the supposed “erasure” of white history. Because that’s a thing.
This weekend’s demonstrations come only a month after a KKK rally was held in Charlottesville in July. President Donald Trump released a statement condemning hatred on Twitter — but without specifying what hatred he was condemning, white nationalists like Richard Spencer are already repurposing his statement to suggest that it was about the counter-protestors on scene rather than the demonstrators themselves.
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2017
This is a hard time in history — and a scary one.
The only thing we can do from here is keep going, and keep pushing back against racism, Nazism, and discrimination of all kinds.
We don’t know about you, but our hearts hurt.