Trump condemns violence at Charlottesville alt-right rally, as car hits several counter-protesters
A gathering of hundreds of white nationalists in Virginia took a deadly turn on Saturday when a car evidently deliberately plowed into a group of counter-protesters and killed at least one person.
President Donald Trump condemned an “egregious display of hatred and bigotry” at the rally, telling there was “no place” for violent protests in America.
After the state’s governor proclaimed a state of emergency to quell the growing conflict in Charlottesville, Trump said via Twitter that the country “must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!”
In the midst of the protest, a Dodge Charger mowed down dozens of peaceful counter-protesters assembled in the area before reversing along the same street. A man from Ohio was held by police on charges relating to the car incident, including second-degree murder, said Martin Kumer, Albemarle Charlottesville’s regional jail superintendent.
The suspect was James Alex Fields, Jr., a 20-year-old white man from Ohio, Kumer said. It was not clear why the suspect was in Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia’s flagship campus.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Richmond office said that there will be a civil rights probe into the incident.
A spokesperson for the University of Virginia Hospital cited one death and at least nineteen injured, with five considered in critical condition.
Charlottesville mayor Mike Signer said in a post on Twitter that he was “heartbroken” over the loss of life, and urged protesters to “go home” in order to defuse the situation.
In a news conference, Trump denounced what he called an “egregious display of hatred and bigotry” displayed by antagonists “on many sides” — a seemingly noncommittal characterization that drew an instant backlash. The president also called for a “swift restoration of law and order and the protection of guiltless lives.”
In a statement issued after the president’s news conference, the White House defended Trump’s use of “many sides,” telling he “was condemning hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides. There was violence inbetween protesters and counter protesters today.”
Saturday’s confrontation sowed chaos in Charlottesville, a picturesque college town home to the University of Virginia—one of the most prestigious institutions of higher education in the country—and two U.S. presidents, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. It was the latest escalation of a conflict that arose earlier this year, when the city voted to liquidate a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a downtown park.
Vice President Mike Pence echoed the president’s prayer for silent, telling that the United States “is greatest when we join together & oppose those seeking to divide us.”
Trump and Pence’s remarks came as politicians in both major parties denounced the rally’s intolerance. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a two thousand sixteen contender for the GOP nomination, posted on Twitter that there was “nothing patriotic” about the rally’s participants, adding that their beliefs stood in “direct opposite of what America should be.”
The conflict reached a crescendo on Friday evening, when supporters who identify as “alt-right” — a key constituency of Trump’s electoral base that helped usher him into the White House — took to the streets carrying torches. They clashed with counter-protesters, exchanging insults and at some points throwing punches and hurling water bottles.
—Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this article.