State of emergency in Charlottesville, Va. as fights erupt at white nationalist rally


White supremacists pass a militia member as the they arrive for a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

A white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. appeared to have ended before it was scheduled to start after fights erupted among hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, alt-right activists and pro-Confederacy groups, and a local state of emergency was declared.

“Unite the Right” was scheduled for noon by people protesting the city’s decision to remove an equestrian statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park. But at least an hour earlier, people were shoving each other, throwing objects and wearing helmets and shields as police were starting to use pepper spray.

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At 11:06 a.m., Albermarle County declared a local state of emergency. Charlottesville soon tweeted, “Unlawful assembly declared for rally at Emancipation Park,” and the Virginia State Police added that arrests were being made.

Soon after, Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency.

Friday night set the tone for Saturday, starting after a federal judge forced the city to accommodate Saturday’s rally after it had initially announced that organizers had to move it to another park.

U.S. District Judge Glen Conrad granted a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed by right-wing blogger Jason Kessler, who organized “Unite the Right,” according to the Associated Press. The city said in response that it would accommodate the rally.

Hundreds of people marched with torches through the University of Virginia’s campus after the judge’s decision on Friday night, holding up their right arms and chanting, “White lives matter” and “You will not replace us,” according to CNN.


White nationalists carry torches on the grounds of the University of Virginia, on the eve of a planned Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. August 11, 2017. Photo by Alejandro Alvarez/News2Share via Reuters

In a Facebook post, Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer wrote, “I am beyond disgusted by this unsanctioned and despicable display of visual intimidation on a college campus.”

Members of the Ku Klux Klan staged a similar protest one month ago that ended in the arrest of 23 people.

But police in riot gear on Saturday afternoon were sweeping the streets, telling everyone they had to clear.

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