Saturday August 12, 2017
By Joe Heim, Ellie Silverman, T. Rees Shapiro and Emma Brown


Ben, a 21-year-old Ku Klux Klan member from Harrison, Ark., attends the rally at Emancipation Park. Evelyn Hockstein/for The Washington Post. Aug. 12, 2017 

CHARLOTTESVILLE — A chaotic and violent day turned to tragedy Saturday
as hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members —
planning to stage what they described as their largest rally in decades
to “take America back” — clashed with counterprotesters in the streets
and a car plowed into crowds, killing one person and injuring 19 others.

Angela
Taylor, a spokeswoman for UVA Medical Center, said 20 people were
brought to the hospital in the early afternooon after three cars
collided in a pedestrian mall packed with people. One died, she said,
although she would not say if it was a man or woman or give any
identifying information. Another 15 people were injured during street
brawls, city officials said.

Earlier, police had evacuated a
downtown park as rallygoers and counterprotesters traded blows and
hurled bottles and chemical irritants at one another, putting an end to
the noon rally before it even began.

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Gov. Terry
McAuliffe declared a state of emergency shortly before 11 a.m., saying
he was “disgusted by the hatred, bigotry and violence” and blaming
“mostly out-of-state protesters.”

Despite the decision to quash
the rally, clashes continued on side streets and throughout the
downtown. In the early afternoon, three cars collided in a pedestrian
mall at Water and Fourth Streets, sending bystanders running and
screaming. It was unclear if it was accidental or intentional.

“I
am heartbroken that a life has been lost here,” said Charlottesville
Mayor Michael Signer in a tweet. “I urge all people of good will–go
home.”

Elected leaders in Virginia and elsewhere urged peace,
blasting the white supremacist views on display in Charlottesville as
ugly. U.S. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) called their display
“repugnant.”

But President Trump, known for the rapid-fire
tweets, remained silent throughout the morning. It was after 1 p.m. when
he weighed in, writing on Twitter: “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!”

At a late-afternoon news
conference to discuss veterans’ health care, Trump said that he was
following the events in Charlottesville closely. “The hate and the
division must stop and must stop right now,” Trump said, without
specifically mentioning white nationalists or their views. “We condemn
in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred,
bigotry, and violence on many sides. On many sides,” he said.

Former
Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, a Trump supporter who was in
Charlottesville Saturday, quickly shot back at the president. “So, after
decades of White Americans being targeted for discriminated &
anti-White hatred, we come together as a people, and you attack us?”
Duke tweeted. “I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror
& remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not
radical leftists.”

Dozens of the white nationalists in
Charlottesville were wearing red Make America Great Again hats. Asked by
a reporter in New Jersey whether he wanted the support of white
nationalists, Trump did not respond.

By early afternoon, hundreds
of rallygoers had made their way from Emancipation Park — where they
had expected to protest the planned removal of a Confederate statue — to
a larger park two miles to the north. Duke, speaking to the crowd,
called Saturday’s events “the first step toward taking America back.”

“The
truth is European Americans face tremendous discrimination in this
country — jobs, scholarships, promotions,” Duke said. “The truth is we
are being ethnically cleansed within our own nation.”

White
nationalist leader Richard Spencer also addressed the group, urging
people to disperse. But he promised that they would gather again for a
future demonstration, blaming Saturday’s violence on counterprotesters.

Even
as crowds began to thin, the town remained unsettled and on edge.
Onlookers were deeply shaken at the pedestrian mall, where ambulances
had arrived to treat victims of the car crash.

Susie McClannahan,
24, said counterprotesters were marching on Fourth Street when she saw a
“silver gray vehicle” drive through the crowd, and then immediately
shift into reverse in what she described as full speed.

“Everyone
was in shock and all of a sudden we heard people scream get to the wall
because the driver was backing up,” McClannahan said. She said those
closest to the accident ran to those injured in the street.

“I didn’t want to believe it was real. It was just so horrible,” she said.

Hunter Harmon, 20, saw people “flung” in the air after they were hit by a car and he heard others screaming.

“We
were marching and next to each other and all of a sudden I just heard a
bunch of bangs and I saw a bunch of people flying through the air and
people injured on the ground,” Harmon said.

Corinne Geller, a
spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police said there were multiple
injuries ranging from life threatening to minor. There were at least
three vehicles involved; one left the scene and has been located, Geller
said.

[Decades before Charlottesville, the Ku Klux Klan was dead. The first Hollywood blockbuster revived it.]

Earlier
Saturday, men in combat gear — some wearing bicycle and motorcycle
helmets and carrying clubs and sticks and makeshift shields — had fought
each other in the downtown streets, with little apparent police
interference. Both sides sprayed each other with chemical irritants and
plastic bottles were hurled through the air.

A large contingent
of Charlottesville police officers and Virginia State Police troopers in
riot gear were stationed on side streets and at nearby barricades but
did nothing to break up the melee until around 11:40 a.m.

Using
megaphones, police declared an unlawful assembly and gave a five-minute
warning to leave Emancipation Park, They were met by equal numbers of
counterprotesters, including clergy, Black Lives Matter activists and
Princeton professor Cornel West.

“The worst part is that people
got hurt and the police stood by and didn’t do a goddamn thing,” said
David Copper, 70, of Staunton, Va.

State Del. David Toscano
(D-Charlottesville), minority leader of Virginia’s House, praised the
response by Charlottesville and state police.

“Things were
getting out of hand in the skirmishes between the alt-right and what I
would describe as the outside agitators who wanted to encourage
violence,” Toscano said.

Asked why police did not act sooner to
intervene as violence unfolded, Toscano said he could not comment. But
they trained very hard for this and it might have been that they were
waiting for a more effective time to get people out” of Emancipation
Park, he said.

A group of three dozen self-described “militia”
men, who were wearing full camouflage and were armed with long guns,
said they were there to help keep the peace, but they also did not break
up the fights.

There were vicious clashes on Market Street in
front of Emancipation Park, where the rally was to begin at noon. A
large contingent of white nationalist rallygoers holding shields and
swinging wooden clubs rushed through a line of counterprotesters.

By
11 a.m., several fully armed militias and hundreds of right-wing
rallygoers had poured into the small downtown park that was to be the
site of the rally.

Counterprotesters held “Black Lives Matter”
signs and placards expressing support for equality and love as they
faced rallygoers who waved Confederate flags and posters that said “the
Goyim know,” referring to non-Jewish people, and “the Jewish media is
going down.”

“No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” the counterprotesters chanted.

“Too late, f—–s!” a man yelled back at them.

Naundi
Cook, 23, said she was scared during the morning protests. Cook, who is
black, said she came to “support her people,” but she’s never seen
something like this before.

When violence broke out, she started shaking and got goose bumps.

“I’ve
seen people walking around with tear gas all over their face all over
their clothes. People getting maced, fighting,” she said. “I didn’t want
to be next.”

Cook said she couldn’t sit back and watch white
nationalists descend on her town. She has a three-year-old daughter to
stand up for, she said.

“Right now, I’m not sad,” she said once
the protests dispersed. “I’m a little more empowered. All these people
and support, I feel like we’re on top right now because of all the
support that we have.”

After police ordered everyone to vacate
the park, columns of white nationalists marched out, carrying
Confederate and Nazi flags as they headed down Market Street in an odd
parade. Counterprotesters lined the sidewalks and shouted epithets and
mocked the group as they walked by. At various points along the route,
skirmishes broke out and shouting matches ensued.

Charlottesville
officials, concerned about crowds and safety issues, had tried to move
the rally to a larger park away from the city’s downtown. But Jason
Kessler, the rally’s organizer, filed a successful lawsuit against the
city that was supported by the Virginia ACLU, saying that his First
Amendment rights would be violated by moving the rally.

Tensions
began Friday night, as several hundred white supremacists chanted “White
lives matter!” “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace
us!” as they carried torches marched in a parade through the University
of Virginia campus.

The fast-paced march was made up almost
exclusively of men in their 20s and 30s, though there were some who
looked to be in their midteens.

Meanwhile, hundreds of
counterprotesters packed a church to pray and organize. A small group of
counterprotesters clashed with the marchers shortly before 10 p.m. at
the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson, U-Va.’ s founder.

One
counterprotester apparently deployed a chemical spray, which affected
the eyes of a dozen or so marchers. It left them floundering and seeking
medical assistance.

Police officers who had been keeping a wary
eye on the march jumped in and broke up the fights. The marchers then
disbanded, though several remained and were treated by police and
medical personnel for the effects of the mace attack. It was not clear
if any one was arrested.

Saturday’s Unite the Right rally was
being held to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate
General Robert E. Lee. The city of Charlottesville voted to remove the
statue earlier this year, but it remains in the Emacipation Park,
formerly known as Lee Park, pending a judge’s ruling expected later this
month.

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