ONE PERSON IS dead and 15 people were injured as a car rammed protestors who had gathered to show their opposition to a hard-right demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia this evening.
Footage circulating on social media shows a car driving towards the counter-demonstrators, who scatter. Eye witnesses say that the car drove at the protestors more than once, hitting another car which was slowly making its way along a crowded road – and causing a three-car shunt. The initial car then reversed at speed to make a getaway.
Charlottesville’s Mayor, Mike Signer, tweeted “I am heartbroken that a life has been lost here. I urge all people of good will – go home.”
President Donald Trump made a short, fairly incoherent statement to reporters which did not distinguish between the far right and the counter-demonstrators. He said, “We are closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. It has been going on for a long time in our country – not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.”
The incident occurred after the Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, declared a state of emergency “to aid state response to violence” as far right protestors and counter-protestors began arriving in Charlottesville. There had been scuffles on Friday evening at the University of Virginia, near the town. On Saturday, groups made their way to Charlottesville – even though the right wing march had been banned. These groups began clashing on the streets in skirmishes the police were finding hard to control.
The far right had called the protest because Charlottesville, a town which traditionally votes Democrat, had decided to remove visible symbols of the town’s Confederate past – including, most controversially – a statue of Conference General Robert E. Lee. Communities have been campaigning for Confederate symbols to be removed from public areas since an incident in Charleston, South Carolina, when a white supremacist killed nine black churchgoers.
The hard right, including such groups as the Ku Klux Klan, appear to have been making Charlottesville a regional focus for protest and had been hoping that the planned rally would be the largest of its kind in recent history.