Virginia Gov. Terry McAullife declared a state of emergency after violence flooded events for the “Unite the Right” rally at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville Friday and Saturday. Mayor Mike Signer confirmed one person had died and 19 people were injured after a Dodge Charger plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters, with witnesses claiming it was intentional.
A male driver is now in custody, according to Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran. Graphic ” target=”_blank”>video of the scene emerged showing the attack.
“The car reversed very fast back on the street,” a male witness told CNN.
“Immediately, victims started coming out. My friend ran after the car. I gave first aid to a lady who had come out from the scene,” the witness added.
Video footage shared on Twitter shows skirmishes that emerged at the protest. Protestors in opposition to the movement were also encircled by white nationalists. McAullife immediately authorized the Virginia State Police Department’s request to declare a state of emergency.
“It is now clear that public safety cannot be safeguarded without additional powers…I am disgusted by the hatred, bigotry and violence these protesters have brought to our state over the past 24 hours,” Gov. McAullife said in a statement.
The “Unite the Right” intends to summon white nationalists to stand against the plan to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from the city park. People in opposition and support of the movement traveled from cities nationwide to participate in the event. Rally advocates carried fiery torches in their hands Friday as they marched through university grounds, chanting: “White lives matter.”
“I just got off the phone with the governor of Virginia, Terry McAullife — the hate and division must stop, and must stop right now,” said President Trump.
Jason Kessler, the protest’s organizer, referred to the event on Twitter as an “incredible moment for white people who’ve had it up to here and aren’t going to take it anymore.” He also tweeted about the issues the alt-right activists faced at Saturday’s rally. Kessler wrote, “#Charlottesville refused to honor permit as ordered by a federal judge. CPD didn’t even show up until 1.5 hrs into the permit.”
UVA’s President Teresa A. Sullivan issued a statement ahead of the “Unite the Right” rally on the college’s website August 4, which urged students to disassociate themselves from the event.
“One may stand up for one’s beliefs without physical confrontation. I urge students and all UVA community members to avoid the August 12 rally and avoid physical confrontation generally. There is a credible risk of violence at this event, and your safety is my foremost concern.
“To approach the rally and confront the activists would only satisfy their craving for spectacle. They believe that your counter-protest helps their cause…The organizers of the rally want confrontation; do not gratify their desire.”
“Today, in 2017, we are instead seeing a cowardly parade of hatred, bigotry, racism, and intolerance march down the lawns of the architect of our Bill of Rights,” Mayor Singer said in a statement published on his Facebook page. “As a UVA faculty member and alumnus, I am beyond disgusted by this unsanctioned and despicable display of visual intimidation on a college campus.”
Neo-Nazi podcast “The Right Stuff” interviewed Mike Peinovich, a featured speaker at the “Unite the Right” rally, about the event. He claimed those in attendance need to bring firearms as protection to the protest in the case violence broke out.
“Bring whatever you need, that you feel you need for your self-defense. Do what you need to do for [the] security of your own person, at this point… We don’t want [counter-protesters] to have the impression, that we are going to be showing up there, unarmed…that is not the case,” Peinovich said.
Facebook removed the event from its website, which goes against the company’s policy on harmful speech. Marne Levine, vice-president of Global Public Policy wrote in 2013: “We prohibit content deemed to be directly harmful, but allow content that is offensive or controversial. We define harmful content as anything organizing real world violence, theft, or property destruction, or that directly inflicts emotional distress on a specific private individual (e.g. bullying).”
The “Unite the Right” rally has received backlash from users on social media whose vocalization over the movement has led UVA, Charlottesville and the KKK to become trending topics on Twitter.
One person tweeted, “The KKK and Nazi white nationalist have replaced white hoods and swastikas with little red Trump hats.”
Another added, “The KKK and Nazis regularly praised and endorsed Trump. They regularly saluted Trump with “Seig Heil”. A vote for Trump was a vote for them.”
A Twitter user also wrote, “So y’all quick to call BLM “terrorists” for wanting justice but we got the KKK & Nazi’s marching w torches and they’re “white nationalist.'”
The Charlottesville rally comes on the heels of a Ku Klux Klan rally in July in which far-right supporters were reportedly outnumbered by over 1,000 counter-protesters.
Follow me on Twitter @dory_jackson