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Car rams into crowd as violence erupts at Virginia white nationalist rally

A car plowed into a crowd of people peacefully protesting a white nationalist rally Saturday in a Virginia college town, killing one person, hurting at least two dozen more and ratcheting up tension in an increasingly violent confrontation. Hours later, two state police officers died when their police helicopter crashed at the outskirts of town. The governor declared a state of emergency, police dressed in riot gear ordered people out and helicopters circled overhead. The group had gathered to protest plans to remove a statue of the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, and others who arrived to protest the racism. A 32-year-old woman was killed, according to police, who said they were investigating the crash as a criminal homicide. The driver of one of the vehicles was taken into custody and charges were pending, said Al Thomas, the Charlottesville police chief. Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail Superintendent Col. Martin Kumer said Saturday that James Alex Fields was arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder, malicious wounding, failure to stop for an accident involving a death, and a hit and run. The turbulence began Friday night, when the white nationalists carried torches though the university campus in what they billed as a “pro-white” demonstration. Hundreds of people threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays. President Trump condemned “in the strongest possible terms” what he called an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” after the clashes. [...] some of the white nationalists cited Trump’s victory as validation for their beliefs, and Trump’s critics pointed to the president’s racially tinged rhetoric as exploiting the nation’s festering racial tension. Oren Segal, who directs the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said multiple white power groups gathered in Charlottesville, including members of neo-Nazi organizations, racist skinhead groups and Ku Klux Klan factions. The white nationalist organizations Vanguard America and Identity Evropa; the Southern nationalist League of the South; the National Socialist Movement; the Traditionalist Workers Party; and the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights also were on hand, he said, along with several groups with a smaller presence. In May, a torch-wielding group that included prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer gathered around the statue for a nighttime protest, and in July, about 50 members of a North Carolina-based KKK group traveled there for a rally, where they were met by hundreds of counter-protesters. A group called the Monument Fund filed a lawsuit arguing that removing the statue would violate a state law governing war memorials.

Article by By Sarah Rankin (c) Page One News - Read full story here.