Hate boils over at deadly rally in Virginia

Share on

A white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that was marked by violent clashes with demonstrators

A white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that was marked by violent clashes with demonstrators counterprotesting the event took a deadly turn yesterday when a speeding car plowed into a crowd and a helicopter crashed, leaving at least three people dead and dozens injured.

The chaotic scene in the small college city was triggered by the largest gathering of white nationalists in a decade and prompted Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to declare a state of emergency, a decision that sent swarms of police officers in riot gear into the fray in an effort to keep the peace.

The white nationalist “Unite the Right” demonstration — organized by right-wing blogger Jason Kessler — was organized in protest of a plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The same group is ­reportedly planning a “Free Speech Rally” on Boston Common next weekend.

Also yesterday, a helicopter crash that killed state police Lt. H. Jay Cullen of Midlothian and Trooper-pilot Berke M.M. Bates of Quinton outside the town was linked to the rally by state police. Authorities said the aircraft was monitoring the protests.

President Trump condemned “in the strongest possible terms” what he called an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” and called for “a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives.”

Trump’s comments were ­blasted by former KKK leader David Duke, who attended the rally and wrote in a tweet: “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.”

Witnesses to the fatal crash said hundreds of counterprotesters were marching down a narrow street when a speeding silver Dodge Challenger smashed into another car, then backed up, barreling through a crowd of marchers. The driver, James Alex Fields Jr., 20, was later arrested and charged with second-degree murder and three counts of malicious wrongdoing, police said. A woman who identified herself Fields’ mother said he told her he was going to the rally.

The clashes began Friday night, when a large crowd of white nationalists carried torches though the University of Virginia campus in what they billed as a “pro-white” demonstration.

Then, yesterday morning, confrontations between the nationalists and counterprotesters turned violent with people throwing punches, hurling water bottles and unleashing chemical spray. Three people were arrested and at least eight were injured, authorities said.

Among the organizations joining the white nationalist protest were 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. On the other side were demonstrators who called themselves anti-fascists.

Yesterday’s violence was the latest unrest since the city, about 100 miles outside of Washington, D.C., voted earlier this year to remove Lee’s statue.

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

Kessler said earlier 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.

In a press conference confirming the three deaths, McAuliffe said he wanted to deliver “a message to the white supremacists and the nazis who came into Charlottesville today: Go home.”

“You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. You pretend that you are patriots, but you are anything but patriots,” he said, adding, “We are stronger than you. You have made our commonwealth stronger. You will not succeed. There is no place for you here.”

Herald wire services contributed to this report.

    Share on
    Article Hate boils over at deadly rally in Virginia compiled by www.bostonherald.com