Virginia governor declares state of emergency over violent far-right rally
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Trump: 'There is no place for this kind of violence in America'

Virginia governor declares state of emergency over violent far-right rally

Police disperse white nationalists, counter-protesters after violence breaks out in Charlottesville; mayor blames Trump for inflaming racial tensions during campaign

  • White nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the "alt-right" clash with counter-protesters as they enter Lee Park during the "Unite the Right" rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)
    White nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the "alt-right" clash with counter-protesters as they enter Lee Park during the "Unite the Right" rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)
  • Members of a state militia looking like riot police at the "Unite the Right" rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)
    Members of a state militia looking like riot police at the "Unite the Right" rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)
  • White nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the "alt-right" are confronted by protesters as they march down East Market Street toward Lee Park during the "Unite the Right" rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)
    White nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the "alt-right" are confronted by protesters as they march down East Market Street toward Lee Park during the "Unite the Right" rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)
  • A member of a nationalist group at the "Unite the Right" rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia.  (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)
    A member of a nationalist group at the "Unite the Right" rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)
  • Hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the "alt-right" march down East Market Street toward Lee Park during the "Unite the Right" rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia.  (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)
    Hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the "alt-right" march down East Market Street toward Lee Park during the "Unite the Right" rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)
  • White nationalist Richard Spencer, center, and his supporters clash with Virginia State Police in Lee Park after the 'Unite the Right' rally was declared an unlawful gathering August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)
    White nationalist Richard Spencer, center, and his supporters clash with Virginia State Police in Lee Park after the 'Unite the Right' rally was declared an unlawful gathering August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)

Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency on Saturday as violence erupted between thousands of white nationalists and counter-protesters ahead of a scheduled far-right rally named “Unite the Right” in Charlottesville.

Police began evacuating the city’s Emancipation Park and making arrests after declaring those gathered there to be part of an “unlawful assembly.” There were two “serious but not life-threatening” injuries, police reported on Twitter.

Clashes had earlier broken out between various white supremacist groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, and so-called “alt-right” supporters as well as other nationalist groups, and members of Black Lives Matter, faith leaders and antifa (anti-fascist), a far-left group whose activists often dress in black and wear balaclavas.

Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer said he was disgusted that the white nationalists had come to his town and blamed US President Donald Trump for inflaming racial prejudices with his campaign last year.

“I’m not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you’re seeing in American today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president,” he said.

Trump wrote on Twitter after the park was cleared that “there is no place for this kind of violence in America.”

Police intervention came right before the “Unite the Right” rally was set to start at noon local time. The white nationalists and neo-Nazis were planning to protest the city’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. near the park. Hundreds of torch-wielding white supremacists had held a march Friday through the University of Virginia campus, chanting racist slogans and clashing with a small group of counter-demonstrators.

In light of the unrest Saturday, city leaders declared a state of emergency, determining “the imminent threat of civil disturbance, unrest, potential injury to persons, and destruction of public and personal property to be of sufficient severity and magnitude to warrant coordinated local government action.”

Violent skirmishes were reported Saturday after the park was cleared, including one incident where a gun was allegedly drawn by a white nationalist against a protester.

On Saturday before the march, rally supporters and counter-protesters screamed, chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other. Confederate flags and some Nazi regalia, including a flag, were also on display.

Chants including “Black Lives Matter,” “No Nazis, No KKK, No Fascist USA,” were heard, as well as, on the other side, “Fuck you, faggots” and “Blood and soil,” a racist German phrase coined in the late 19th century and popularized with the rise of Nazism.

Men wearing shields and helmets and carrying flags of various white nationalist groups were seen filing in to the park before the rally, which was blocked off to counter-protesters and the media briefly by members of a number of state militias wearing fatigues and carrying weapons, including assault rifles.

The march drew well-known far-right figures, including the leader of the so-called “alt-right” Richard Spencer, a white nationalist who was famously punched in the face in Washington after Trump’s inauguration, a moment that was caught on video and circulated worldwide.

Earlier, the counter-demonstrators had shouted “From the Midwest to the South, punch a Nazi in the mouth,” — a reference to the Spencer incident — and “Nazi scum” at far-right attendees.

One man retorted with “anti-white, out of my sight” at the counter-demonstrators, in a live feed posted on Facebook.

At one point, a “we have already won” chant emanated from the crowd, a likely reference to the election of Trump.

First Lady Melania Trump tweeted that while the rally may be covered by “freedom of speech, but let’s communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence. #Charlottesville.”

A large police presence secured the rally and the US National Guard was on stand-by, following a Friday night march which saw white nationalists beat up counter-protesters.

Both the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which track extremist groups, said the Saturday event had the potential to be the largest of its kind in at least a decade.

On Friday night, hundreds of torch-wielding white supremacists marched through the University of Virginia campus, chanting racist slogans and clashing with a small group of counter-demonstrators.

In videos of the march, which lasted about 20 minutes late Friday, the far-right activists could be seen using the torches and ropes to beat the counter-demonstrators next to a statue of Thomas Jefferson.

Many of them chanted “White lives matter!” “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!”

Several can also be seen giving the Nazi salute and using the Nazi slogan “blood and soil.”

Police intervened after some of the demonstrators were sprayed with tear gas.

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