Everyone was bracing for chaos, but the violence in Charlottesville erupted much earlier and was more intense than many were anticipating. Fights erupted between white supremacists and counterprotesters Saturday morning ahead of a white nationalist rally, leading Gov. Terry McAuliffe to declare a state of emergency and call off the planned protest. At least eight people were reported injured in the clashes, and that was before a vehicle plowed into a group of people marching peacefully through downtown Charlottesville. One person was killed, according to Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer. “I am heartbroken that a life has been lost here. I urge all people of good will–go home,” he wrote on Twitter. Nineteen people were injured and the driver was arrested.
CNN describes the scene:
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, and 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 athletic shoe falls off the bumper.
The violence had really begun the night before, when white nationalists marching across the University of Virginia campus carrying torches faced off with counterprotesters. But then things escalated quickly Saturday morning, as hundreds of white nationalists gathered for the “Unite the Right” rally, waving Confederate flags and chanting Nazi-era slogans. Fistfights quickly broke out as protesters on both sides unleashed chemical sprays on each other, and full-on brawls involving dozens of people erupted in the streets, injuring at least 15 people. That’s when officials declared that the gathering was unlawful, and police in riot gear quickly ordered people to disperse.
President Donald Trump took to Twitter to denounce the violence. “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for,” Trump said in a tweet. “There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Let’s come together as one!” Trump didn’t mention Charlottesville in his first tweet but then sent another message, 41 minutes later: “Am in Bedminster for meetings & press conference on V.A. & all that we have done, and are doing, to make it better-but Charlottesville sad!”
As outrage and condemnation streamed in from all corners of the political spectrum, Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer did not mince words and directly blamed Trump. “I’m not going to make any bones about it,” Signer said. “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.”
*This post has been updated with new information since it was first published.