One person was killed and 19 were hurt when a speeding car slammed into a throng of counterprotesters in Charlottesville, where a “Unite the Right” rally of white nationalist and other right-wing groups had been scheduled take place, the city tweeted on its verified account.
The driver was later taken into custody, the city said in a news release. It did not name the person. Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas said a man was in custody and the subject of a homicide investigation, but he did not name the suspect.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said at a news conference that three people had died, but he did not say where the deaths occurred. Other authorities said two people died when a helicopter crashed near the site of the Saturday confrontations between white nationalists and counterprotesters.
McAuliffe had a pointed message for the right-wing groups that flocked to Charlottesville Saturday: “Go home … You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you.”
In addition to the one death and 19 injuries in the car-ramming incident, the city said there were at least 15 other injuries associated with the scheduled rally.
“I am heartbroken that a life has been lost here. I urge all people of good will — go home,” Mayor Mike Signer wrote on Twitter.
Virginia’s governor had earlier declared an emergency, and police worked to disperse hundreds of protesters in the college town after clashes broke out ahead of the rally’s scheduled noon ET start.
Fistfights and screaming matches erupted Saturday, barely 12 hours after a scuffle Friday night at the nearby University of Virginia between torch-bearing demonstrators and counterprotesters.
Saturday’s rally was the latest event drawing white nationalists and right-wing activists from across the country to this Democratic-voting town — a development precipitated by the city’s decision to remove symbols of its Confederate past.
Here are the latest developments:
• Seven people were being treated at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, spokeswoman Jen Downs said. Downs didn’t have word on their conditions.
Video of the incident shows a gray Dodge Challenger driving quickly down a narrow side street lined with walking protesters. The sports car rams into the back of a silver convertible, which hits the van in front of it. Soon the Dodge driver slams the car in reverse, going back up the street at a high rate of speed, dragging its front bumper. Several people chase the car. As the sports car retreats, a red and white athletic shoe falls off the bumper.
Another video shows at least one person being thrown over the rear of the car onto the roof of the silver convertible then sliding down onto the hood.
• Witness Chris Mahony said he and a friend, who shot one of the videos, were walking down the street when he saw the gray car on the other side of the street.
“It just sat there, looking down the road,” he said. “I thought that’s a bit strange. There didn’t seem to be any other cars stopping him from going. And then a couple moments we heard a car going incredibly fast down the road and then it plowed into the crowd.”
• President Donald Trump told reporters: “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.”
• Police began to break up crowds shortly before noon, after city officials declared the gathering an “unlawful assembly.” Police officers spoke on bullhorns, directing people to leave.
• The declaration was made after fistfights and screaming matches erupted in several locations late Saturday morning.
• Some protesters fired pepper spray at other demonstrators, state police said.
• Gov. McAuliffe declared a state of emergency “to aid state response to violence,” according to a post on his Twitter account.
• An unspecified number of protesters have been arrested in Charlottesville, state police said.
Police in riot gear stood shoulder to shoulder behind shields early Saturday afternoon, at times advancing toward crowds, CNN video shows. Members of the Virginia National Guard also were there.
By 1 p.m. ET, police had cleared the park where the rally was to be held. It wasn’t immediately clear how many demonstrators remained in other parts of the city.
“It is now clear that public safety cannot be safeguarded without additional powers, and that the mostly out-of-state protesters have come to Virginia to endanger our citizens and property,” McAuliffe said. “I am disgusted by the hatred, bigotry and violence these protesters have brought to our state over the past 24 hours.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what led to the fights, though tensions and rhetoric were running hot. At one point, a few dozen white men wearing helmets and holding makeshift shields chanted, “Blood and soil!” Later, another group chanted slogans such as, “Nazi scum off our streets!”
People punched and kicked each other during various scuffles, which often were broken up from within crowds, without police intervention, CNN video shows.
Earlier, a group of clergy and other counterdemonstrators, including activist and Harvard professor Cornel West, held hands, prayed and sang, “This Little Light of Mine.”
Police presence was heavy, with more than 1,000 officers expected to be deployed, city officials said. Police anticipated the rally would attract as many as 2,000 to 6,000 people, and the Southern Poverty Law Center said it could be the “largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades in the United States.”