ONE person has died and 19 others have been injured after a car ploughed into a group of anti-white-nationalist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Witnesses said a car ploughed into a crowd of people who were protesting against a rally held by white nationalists who oppose the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee by civic officials in Charlottesville.
The city had been the scene of violent clashes between the nationalists and counter-protesters earlier.
Speaking in New Jersey, US president Donald Trump condemned “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides”.
He added: “What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives.”
The incident happened about two hours after violent clashes broke out between white nationalists – who descended on the town to rally against the city’s plans to remove the historic statue and others who arrived to protest against the racism.
This is about… the need for white people to have advocacy like others
Hundreds of people chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays during the ensuing violence.
Virginia’s governor Terry McAuliffe had declared a state of emergency in response to the rally. The demonstrations began on Friday in Charlottesville with white nationalists marching through town and carrying lit torches. The demonstrators then clashed with counter-protesters.
After the violence the organiser of the white nationalist rally encouraged attendees to leave town after authorities declared an unlawful assembly and police ordered people to disperse.
Right-wing blogger Jason Kessler organised the demo in protest over the statue decision.
Kessler had called for what he termed a “pro-white” rally in protest at Charlottesville’s decision to remove the Confederate statue from a city park.
Kessler said earlier that the rally was partly about the removal of Confederate symbols but also about free speech and “advocating for white people.”
“This is about an anti-white climate within the Western world and the need for white people to have advocacy like other groups do,” he said.
Charlottesville, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is a liberal-leaning city that’s home to the flagship University of Virginia and Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.
The statue’s removal is part of a broader city effort to change the way Charlottesville’s history of race is told in public spaces. The city has also renamed Lee Park, where the statue stands, and Jackson Park, named for Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. They are now called Emancipation Park and Justice Park, respectively.