A 32-year-old woman was killed Saturday and 19 others were injured, five of them critically, when a car rammed into a group of counter-protesters during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va.
A helicopter crash that killed the pilot and a passenger later in the afternoon outside the university town also was linked to the rally by State Police, though officials did not elaborate on how the crash was connected.
At a late afternoon news conference, Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas said that 35 people had been injured in various confrontations during the rally and made a point of saying that none of those involved his officers.
Thomas also said that the car crash was being treated as an act of
Matt Korbon, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, told the Associated Press several hundred counter-protesters were marching when
“suddenly there was just this tire screeching sound.”
A silver Dodge Challenger smashed into another car, then backed up, barreling through
“a sea of people.”
The chaos boiled over at what is believed to be the largest group of white nationalists to come together in a decade: 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.
The impact hurled people into the air.
Those left standing scattered, screaming and running for safety in different directions.
Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran said authorities have arrested a 20-year-old Ohio man, James Alex Fields, and charged him with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and failing to stop at the scene of a crash that resulted in a death.
He was arrested after fleeing the scene of the collision with protesters. Authorities have not identified him as the driver of the car used in the attack, but that car was registered to a man of the same name and age.
Fields is being held without bail, and will be arraigned on Monday.
It is not yet confirmed why Fields crashed into the protesters, but more details emerged about him late Saturday.
He apparently lives in Maumee, Ohio, near Toledo.
The Toledo Blade reports that, according to his mother, he was in Charlottesville to attend the white nationalist rally, though she said she didn’t know much about it, only that he had dropped off his cat so he could go to an alt-right rally in Virginia.
“I thought it had something to do with Trump,” she told the Blade.
They had moved to Ohio from Kentucky last year, and James had moved out of her apartment five-to-six months ago.
Buzzfeed News additionally reports that a Facebook page which appeared to belong to Fields featured posts showing alt-right memes, making references to Nazism and white supremacy, and indicating support for President Trump.
Fields also registered as a Republican last year and voted in both Ohio’s primary and last year’s presidential election.
The crash occurred approximately two hours after clashes in which hundreds of people scramed, chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other ahead of the scheduled noon demonstration.
Adressing those who he called
“the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesvillle today,”
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe told them to
“There is no place for you here,”
“There is no place for you in America … Go home and never come back.”
Hours earlier, President Donald Trump condemned
“in the strongest possible terms”
what he called an
“egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides”
after the clashes. He called for
“a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives.”
Hours later, Trump tweeted condolences to the families of the victims of the helicopter crash — who he identified as Virginia state troopers — and the unidentified woman who was killed by the car.
Vice President Mike Pence tweeted:
“I stand with @POTUS against hate & violence. U.S. is greatest when we join together & oppose those seeking to divide us. #Charlottesville”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also tweeted condemning the protests.
“The views fueling the spectacle in Charlottesville are repugnant,”
“Let it only serve to unite Americans against this kind of vile bigotry.”
Two Virginia State police officers were also killed when their helicopter crashed, which authorities linked to the rally.
President Trump condemned the violence at the rally but refused to single out white supremacists in his comments, drawing fire from GOP senators who demanded he call the event a terror attack.