The city of Charlottesville was reeling Sunday, trying to understand how the college town was suddenly engulfed by chaos and violence as a white nationalist rally turned deadly, claiming the lives of three people. Late on Saturday night, the Department of Justice said it would launch a civil rights investigation into “the circumstances of the deadly vehicular incident” that killed one 32-year-old counter-protester and injured at least 19. Two state police officers also died Saturday when their helicopter crashed outside of town as they were assisting with the unrest in Charlottesville. Federal authorities are also looking into the circumstances surrounding that crash.
“The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.”
A total of four people were arrested in the violence that took over Charlottesville on Saturday as white supremacists clashed with counter-protesters. One of those currently behind bars is James Alex Fields, 20, of Maumee, Ohio, who was arrested on suspicion of plowing his car into a crowd of counter-protesters and was charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and failing to stop at the scene of a crash that resulted in a death.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe was planning to visit two Charlottesville churches on Sunday to speak about Saturday’s violence that left at least 35 people injured. The governor had declared a state of emergency early Saturday after a long-planned protest over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee quickly turned violent. That led the National Guard and the police to clear a rally at a city park but violence continued in the streets of Charlottesville.
Several white power groups had gathered in Charlottesville Saturday for the “Unite the Right” rally, including 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, Oren Segal, who directs the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, told the Associated Press. “We anticipated this event being the largest white supremacist gathering in over a decade,” Segal said. “Unfortunately, it appears to have become the most violent as well.”
At a news conference on Saturday evening, McAuliffe, a Democrat, told “all the white supremacists and the Nazis” who traveled to Charlottesville to “go home” because “you are not wanted in this great commonwealth.” The Charlottesville City Council also voted unanimously to give police the power to enact a curfew.