US rally turns deadly as car rams crowd

Sarah Rankin
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Confederate Monuments Protest

A car ran into a large group of protesters after an white nationalist rally in Virginia

At least one person is dead and 26 are in hospital after a car ploughed through a crowd of people peacefully protesting a white nationalist rally in a Virginia college town.

Earlier on Saturday tensions had boiled over in Charlottesville during what is believed to be the largest public demonstration of white nationalists in a decade, forcing the governor declared a state of emergency.

The groups were protesting plans to remove a statue of the Confederate General Robert E Lee, and while counter-protesters arrived to protest the racism.

Matt Korbon, a University of Virginia student, said several hundred counter-protesters were marching on Saturday afternoon when "suddenly there was just this tire screeching sound".

A silver sedan smashed into another car, then backed up, barrelling 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.

Tensions were already high from Friday night, when white nationalists carried torches though the university campus in a "pro-white" demonstration.

It quickly spiralled into violence on Saturday morning as hundreds of people threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays.

At least eight were injured and one arrested in connection.

President Donald Trump tweeted: "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!"

Some of the white nationalists cited Trump's victory as validation for their beliefs, while Trump's critics pointed to his racially tinged rhetoric as exploiting the nation's festering racial tension.

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 organisations, racist skinhead groups and Ku Klux Klan factions.

The white nationalist organisations 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 attended he said, along with several groups with a smaller presence.

On the other side, anti-fascist demonstrators also gathered, but they generally aren't organised like white nationaliss, said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Authorities were expecting as many as 6000 people, Charlottesville police said this week.

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