3 dead amid vi­o­lent white na­tion­al­ist rally

We con­demn this dis­play of ha­tred and big­otry on many sides: Trump

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A car rammed into a crowd of pro­test­ers and a state po­lice he­li­copter crashed into the woods Satur­day as ten­sion boiled over at a white su­prem­a­cist rally. The vi­o­lent day left three dead, dozens in­jured and this usu­ally quiet college town a bloodied sym­bol of the na­tion’s roil­ing racial and po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions.

The chaos erupted around what is be­lieved to be the largest group of white na­tion­al­ists 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. Hun­dreds came to protest against the racism. There were street brawls and vi­o­lent clashes; the gov­er­nor de­clared a state of emer­gency, po­lice in riot gear or­dered peo­ple out and he­li­copters cir­cled over­head.

Peace­ful pro­test­ers were march­ing down­town, car­ry­ing signs that read “black lives mat­ter” and “love.” A sil­ver Dodge Chal­lenger sud­denly came bar­rel­ing 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.

Sticks and shields

The 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. 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,” said Bloom, who be­came vis­i­bly up­set as she learned of the in­juries and deaths at the rally

“He had an African-Amer­i­can friend so ...,” she said be­fore her voice trailed off. She added that she’d be sur­prised if her son’s views were that far right. His arrest capped off hours of un­rest. Hun­dreds of peo­ple threw punches, hurled wa­ter bot­tles and un­leashed chem­i­cal sprays. Some came pre­pared for a fight, with body ar­mor and hel­mets. Videos that ric­o­cheted around the world on so­cial me­dia showed peo­ple beat­ing each other with sticks and shields.

Vir­ginia Gov Terry McAuliffe and Char­lottesville Mayor Michael Signer, both Democrats, lumped the blame squarely on the ran­cor that has seeped into Amer­i­can pol­i­tics and the white su­prem­a­cists who came from out of town into their city, nes­tled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Moun­tains, home to Mon­ti­cello, Thomas Jef­fer­son’s plan­ta­tion.

“There is a very sad and re­gret­table coarse­ness in our pol­i­tics that we’ve all seen too much of to­day,” Signer said at a press con­fer­ence. “Our op­po­nents have be­come our en­e­mies, de­bate has be­come in­tim­i­da­tion.” Some of the white na­tion­al­ists at Satur­day’s rally cited Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s vic­tory after a cam­paign of racial­ly­charged rhetoric as val­i­da­tion for their be­liefs.

Trump crit­i­cized the vi­o­lence in a tweet Satur­day, fol­lowed by a press con­fer­ence and a call for “a swift restora­tion of law and or­der.”“We con­demn in the strong­est pos­si­ble terms this egre­gious dis­play of ha­tred, big­otry and vi­o­lence on many sides,” he said. The “on many sides” end­ing of his state­ment drew the ire of his crit­ics, who said he failed to specif­i­cally de­nounce white supremacy and equated those who came to protest racism with the white su­prem­a­cists. The Rev Jesse Jack­son noted that Trump for years ques­tioned Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s cit­i­zen­ship and his le­git­i­macy as the first black pres­i­dent, and has fanned the flames of white re­sent­ment.

“We are in a very dan­ger­ous place right now,” Jack­son said. McAuliffe said at Satur­day’s press con­fer­ence that he spoke to Trump on the phone, and in­sisted that the pres­i­dent must work to com­bat hate. Trump said he agreed with McAuliffe “that the hate and the di­vi­sion must stop and must stop right now.” At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions an­nounced late Satur­day that fed­eral au­thor­i­ties will pur­sue a civil rights in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the crash. The vi­o­lence and deaths in Char­lottesville strike at the heart of Amer­i­can law and jus­tice,” Ses­sions wrote. “When such ac­tions arise from racial big­otry and ha­tred, they be­tray our core val­ues and can­not be tol­er­ated.”

Largest such gath­er­ing in a decade

Oren Se­gal, who di­rects the Anti-Defama­tion League’s Cen­ter on Ex­trem­ism, said mul­ti­ple white power groups gath­ered in Char­lottesville, in­clud­ing mem­bers of neoNazi or­ga­ni­za­tions, racist skin­heads and KKK 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.

“We an­tic­i­pated this event be­ing the largest white su­prem­a­cist gath­er­ing in over a decade,” Se­gal said. “Un­for­tu­nately, it ap­pears to have be­come the most vi­o­lent as well.” On the other side, anti-fas­cist demon­stra­tors also gath­ered, but they gen­er­ally aren’t or­ga­nized like white na­tion­al­ist fac­tions, said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Cen­ter.

In ad­di­tion to Fields, at least three more men were ar­rested in con­nec­tion to the protests The Vir­ginia State Po­lice an­nounced late Satur­day that Troy Du­ni­gan, a 21year-old from Chat­tanooga, Ten­nessee, was charged with dis­or­derly con­duct; Ja­cob L Smith, a 21-year-old from Louisa, Vir­ginia, was charged with as­sault and bat­tery; and James M O’Brien, 44, of Gainesville, Florida, was charged with car­ry­ing a con­cealed hand­gun.

Just as the city seemed like to be qui­et­ing down, black smoke bil­lowed out from the tree tops just out­side of town as a Vir­ginia State Po­lice he­li­copter crashed into the woods. Robby E. Noll, who lives in the county just out­side Char­lottesville, heard the he­li­copter sput­ter­ing. “I turned my head to the sky. You could tell he was strug­gling to try to get con­trol of it,” he said.

— AP

CHAR­LOTTESVILLE: Pro­test­ers march in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia on Au­gust 12, 2017. A pic­turesque Vir­ginia city braced Satur­day for a flood of white na­tion­al­ist demon­stra­tors as well as counter-pro­test­ers, declar­ing a lo­cal emer­gency as law en­force­ment at­tempted to quell early vi­o­lent clashes.

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