Three dead after violent clashes at white nationalist rally
Three people were killed and 19 others were injured during a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., turning a day of violent demonstrations into a tragedy that rocked the nation.
One of the three died after a car mowed down a group of protesters. The two other victims were Virginia State Police Department officers who were in a helicopter that crashed nearby.
The University of Virginia Health System said 20 people were brought to the hospital Saturday afternoon after a car plowed into a group of people protesting near a popular pedestrian mall in the college town. One died and the rest were being assessed and treated for injuries.
The helicopter crash happened a few miles outside of Charlottesville and it was not immediately clear what caused the crash.
Virginia State Police said Saturday that the helicopter crashed in a wooded area near a home around 5 p.m. The crash is being investigated and it is unclear if it was tied to the protests.
The incident came after Virginia’s governor had declared a state of emergency for the city after clashes between white nationalist and Nazi groups and counter-protestors.
President Trump condemned the violence on Saturday afternoon at an event on veterans’ healthcare, but did not specifically mention white nationalists, neo-Nazis, or their views, instead criticizing hatred and violence “on many sides.”
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides — on many sides,” he said, adding that the task now “is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives.”
Trump’s comments drew criticism from a slew of lawmakers and other political figures in both parties who said the president should have been unequivocal in expressing outrage at white supremacists.
“Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism,” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) wrote on Twitter.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in a message on Twitter it was “very important for the nation to hear @POTUS describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists.”
A White House official in a statement later on Saturday to NBC Newsreiterated Trump’s remarks, saying the president was “condemning hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides,” adding that there was “violence between protesters and counter protesters today.”
Video posted to social media showed a grey sedan speeding down a side street full of people and smashing into another vehicle, before backing up and sending people fleeing for safety. Police said the driver was arrested.
The grisly incident occurred hours after police broke up violent clashes between white nationalists, who came to the city to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, and counter-protesters.
Footage showed demonstrators shouting, throwing bottles at one another and using pepper spray in a downtown park.
The events on Saturday took place after dozens of white nationalists carrying torches held a rally in Charlottesville on Friday, where they were photographed using Nazi salutes.