Horror and hate in Charlottesville
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Clashes between “alt-right” white nationalists and counter-protesters turned this Virginia college town into a battlefield on Saturday, leaving one people dead and more than a dozen injured after a car plowed into a crowd of counter-protestors.
The fatal crash came a day after white supremacists already in town for the “Unite the Right” rally scheduled for Saturday marched through Charlottesville with torches, clashing with outnumbered left-wing activists.
The images of torch-lit white nationalists occupying the center of an American city went viral on social media, increasing the pressure on liberal activists to prevent Saturday’s event.
Saturday saw many storefronts in Charlottesville shuttered ahead of expected fighting, which began hours before the noon start time for the planned right-wing rally.
The event brought various white nationalist groups together, and was meant to protest Charlottesville’s removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
The event never began, with a state of emergency declared and the white nationalists pushed out of the park before white nationalist leaders like Richard Spencer could even take the stage. Violent clashes between both sides ahead of the event left several bloodied.
After their rally was quashed, roughly 100 dejected white nationalists tried to regroup at a more distant park.
At that point, they were more interested in getting out of Charlottesville and performing makeshift medical care on their political allies than returning to the scene of the clashes. One man proposed retreating to nearby woods to avoid police or antifascist protesters.
“Our plan is to get out of here,” said one man who refused to give his name. “Everyone is scattered.”
Still, they fumed over their ejection.
One man in a white military helmet with a walker talkie, who declined to give his name, spoke about a need for “shooters” who could return to the center of Charlottesville and catalogued with his political allies the number of guns available to them.
Another man with a walkie-talkie put out a call asking for help from “all goys” in the area, a reference to non-Jews. Others heckled a reporter with anti-Semitic slurs, asking how many “shekels” the man would get.
Spencer, who rallied with a number of other white nationalist leaders, including ex-KKK Imperial Wizard and former Senate candidate David Duke, urged the crowd to disperse but complained that the police hadn’t defended their event against the left-wing activists.
“They did not protect us,” Spencer said.
While the alt-right retreated, anarchists and left-wing counter-protesters were beginning to hype each other up.
“Antifa” counter-protesters enjoyed their victory, with some burning flags affiliated with white nationalist causes.
Rumors circulated that the white nationalists had intended to go into a primarily African-American neighborhood of Charlottesville to intimidate people.
One group of counter-protestors circled a group of 10-15 men and women who identified themselves as local militiamen and all wore camouflage clothing in a downtown parking lot.
As a few of the militia men, some carrying rifles and two wearing “make American great again” hats, got into a grey Lexus SUV, counter-protesters circled and shouted at them to renounce the KKK and get out of town.
As their SUV pulled out, counter protesters chased it down, throwing rocks, bottles, and a shoe, attempting to smash its windows.
Hundreds of counter-protestors marched down Water Street chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!”
As the crowd approached the corner of Water and Fourth Street, they were told that neighborhood residents did not want them to turn right to go further into the neighborhood.
“You guys, we spoke to community organizers,” one counter protester shouted. “We need to turn back. Walk up that street,” he shouted, gesturing to the wide alley to the crowd’s left.
Those marching listened, and turned left to go in the opposite direction.
The mood also seemed to shift, as some at the front of the line danced and others spoke of having driven “the racists out of town.”
Suddenly, screams and a repeated thumping sound could be heard.
A grey Dodge Challenger was driving through the crowd at an accelerated speed, and bodies were banging against its windshield.
People began screaming loudly for medical attention as at least four people were on the ground.
The car paused for a moment, before reversing in full speed and running into more people.
Bodies were strewn up and down the block, with groups clustered around each one seeking to help. Pools of blood formed under some of the most grievously wounded.
Many people who said they had medical training tried to help the injured. People tied swatches of fabric and bandanas around wounds to try to stem the bleeding.
The white nationalist leaders were giving speeches to their disappointed supporters when video of the car driving into protesters across town began to go viral on social media.
Citing a supposed attack from left-wing protesters or a possible police arrival, the remaining white power supporters hurried to their cars.
But Spencer promised that the white nationalists aren’t done with Charlottesville, singling out several local officials for criticism.
“We are never backing down, we are going to be back here,” Spencer said.
Hours later, people lingered at the site where the protesters were run over, trying to figure out what had happened and why.
“Them people getting run over is ridiculous. It should have never gotten that far,” said a man who identified himself as a Charlottesville resident. “That car should have been nowhere around there. Police is supposed to keep order. They should have blocked off the street and kept people 100 yards apart.”
“I can’t understand how any of this happened,” one woman said ahead of a vigil planned for later Saturday night on the University of Virginia lawn.