CHARLOTTESVILLE: United States (US) President Donald Trump blamed “many sides” for the violent clashes between protesters and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday that left one person dead and dozens of others injured as emergency was declared in the state. Two state police officials were killed in a helicopter crash during the rally.
The chaos erupted around what is believed to be the largest group of white supremacists to come together in a decade including neo-Nazis, skinheads, members of the Ku Klux Klan who descended on the city to “take America back” by rallying against plans to remove a Confederate statue of Gen Robert E. Lee in the city’s Emancipation Park.
Hundreds came to protest against the racism. Peaceful protesters were marching downtown, carrying signs that read “black lives matter” and “love”.
There were street brawls and violent clashes as tension boiled over at the white supremacist rally.
The governor declared a state of emergency, police in riot gear ordered people out and helicopters circled overhead. A car rammed into a crowd of protesters and a state police helicopter crashed into the woods.
The violent day left three dead, dozens injured and the usually quiet college town a bloodied symbol of the nation’s roiling racial and political divisions.
A 20-year-old allegedly attending the white supremacist rally rammed a car into counter-protesters, killing a woman and injuring others.
The suspected driver, James Alex Fields Jr, a 20-year-old who recently moved to Ohio from where he grew up in Kentucky, was charged with second-degree murder and other counts.
A silver Dodge Challenger allegedly driven by Fields suddenly came barrelling through “a sea of people” and smashed into another car, said Matt Korbon, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student.
The impact hurled people into the air and blew off their shoes.
A 32-year-old woman was killed as she crossed the street.
“It was a wave of people flying at me,” said Sam Becker, 24, sitting in the emergency room to be treated for leg and hand injuries.
Those left standing scattered, screaming and running for safety.
Video caught the car reversing, hitting more people, its windshield splintered from the collision and bumper dragging on the pavement.
Medics carried the injured, bloodied and crying, away as a police tank rolled down the street.
Field’s mother, Samantha Bloom, told The Associated Press on Saturday night that she knew her son was attending a rally in Virginia but didn’t know it was a white supremacist rally.
“I thought it had something to do with Trump. Trump’s not a white supremacist,” Bloom claimed.
She became visibly upset as she learned of the injuries and deaths at the rally. “He had an African-American friend so…,” she claimed before her voice trailed off.
She added that she’d be surprised if her son’s views were that far right.
The FBI said it has opened a civil rights investigation into the circumstances that led a driver to plow a car into a crowd.