Statue protest turns vi­o­lent in Vir­ginia

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Sh­eryl Gay Stolberg, Brian M. Rosenthal, Hawes Spencer and Alan Feuer of The New York Times; Joe Heim, El­lie Sil­ver­man, T. Rees Shapiro, Sarah Larimer and Emma Brown of The Wash­ing­ton Post; Sarah Rankin, A

CHAR­LOTTESVILLE, Va. — Vi­o­lence flared Sat­ur­day as hun­dreds of white na­tion­al­ists who had gath­ered to protest the re­moval of a Gen. Robert E. Lee mon­u­ment clashed with coun­ter­protesters, and a car plowed into a crowd, re­sult­ing in at least one death and prompt­ing the gov­er­nor to de­clare a state of emer­gency.

Shortly af­ter the white na­tion­al­ists were dis­persed from a city park in Char­lottesville, the car slammed into some coun­ter­protesters near a down­town mall, killing a 32-year-old woman, Po­lice Chief Al Thomas said. Some 35 peo­ple were in­jured, at least 19 of them be­cause the car hit them, ac­cord­ing to a spokesman for the Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

Wit­nesses said the gray sports car ac­cel­er­ated to­ward peo­ple mov­ing along Fourth Street, near the mall. The im­pact hurled at least two peo­ple into the air.

“It was prob­a­bly the scari­est thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Robert Ar­men­gol, who was at the scene re­port­ing for a pod­cast he hosts with stu­dents at the Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia. “Af­ter that it was pan­de­mo­nium. The car hit re­verse and sped, and ev­ery­body who was up the street in my di­rec­tion started run­ning.”

The car’s driver was later

iden­ti­fied by po­lice as James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio. Po­lice said Fields, 20, has been charged with sec­ond-de­gree mur­der, three counts of ma­li­cious wound­ing, and one count re­lated to leav­ing the scene of an ac­ci­dent. A bond hear­ing is sched­uled for Mon­day.

The Jus­tice De­part­ment an­nounced Sat­ur­day night that it was open­ing a civil­rights in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­lated to the ve­hi­cle death.

Also, Sat­ur­day af­ter­noon, a Vir­ginia State Po­lice he­li­copter crashed near a golf course and burst into flames. State po­lice of­fi­cials said in a state­ment that the he­li­copter was “as­sist­ing pub­lic safety re­sources with the on­go­ing sit­u­a­tion” when it crashed in a wooded area. The pi­lot, Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, of Mid­loth­ian, Va., and Trooper-pi­lot Berke M.M. Bates of Quin­ton, Va., died at the scene.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump men­tioned the Char­lottesville vi­o­lence dur­ing a late-af­ter­noon news con­fer­ence held to dis­cuss vet­er­ans health care. From his golf club in Bed­min­ster, N.J., Trump said he was closely fol­low­ing the events in Char­lottesville.

“The hate and the di­vi­sion must stop and must stop right now,” Trump said. “We con­demn in the strong­est pos­si­ble terms this egre­gious dis­play of ha­tred, big­otry and vi­o­lence on many sides. On many sides.”

Af­ter call­ing for the “swift restora­tion of law and or­der,” he called for unity among Amer­i­cans of “all races, creeds and col­ors.”

His com­ments drew swift re­ac­tions. Democrats and some Repub­li­cans called on him to specif­i­cally de­nounce white supremacy and racially mo­ti­vated hate.

“POTUS needs to speak out against the poi­sonous resur­gence of white supremacy. There are not “many sides” here, just right and wrong,” U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in a Twit­ter post.

Sim­i­larly, U.S. Sen. Marco Ru­bio, R-Fla., said in a Twit­ter post, “Very im­por­tant for the na­tion to hear potus de­scribe events in #Char­lottesville for what they are, a ter­ror at­tack by #white­supremacists.”

Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence sup­ported the pres­i­dent’s speech, say­ing on Twit­ter, “As POTUS Trump said, ‘We have to come to­gether as Amer­i­cans with love for our na­tion … & true af­fec­tion for each other.’”

MARCH TURNS VI­O­LENT

The Char­lottesville demon­stra­tion, which or­ga­niz­ers and crit­ics said was the largest gath­er­ing of white na­tion­al­ists in re­cent years, was or­ga­nized to protest the planned re­moval of Lee’s statue from a city park that once bore his name but is now named Eman­ci­pa­tion Park.

Lee, who was born in Vir­ginia, com­manded the Con­fed­er­ate Army of North­ern Vir­ginia dur­ing the Amer­i­can Civil War.

The events in Char­lottesville be­gan Fright night with a march by white na­tion­al­ists on the cam­pus of the Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia.

One of the marchers wore an “Arkansas Engi­neer­ing” shirt and held a lighted tiki torch. In a tweet Sat­ur­day that in­cluded a photo of that marcher, Uni­ver­sity of Arkansas, Fayetteville Chan­cel­lor Joe Stein­metz said UA val­ues free­dom of speech but con­demns “ha­tred, vi­o­lence & white supremacy.”

“Di­ver­sity & in­clu­sion are @Uarkansas val­ues,” he wrote in a Twit­ter post. “Not this.”

In a state­ment on its Face­book page, the UA Col­lege of Engi­neer­ing said, “While we can­not con­trol what some­one buys or wears, we will stand strong on our val­ues and will con­tinue to sup­port all stu­dents re­gard­less of race, color, reli­gion, na­tional ori­gin, sex, gen­der, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity.”

Sat­ur­day morn­ing started peace­fully in Char­lottesville. The white na­tion­al­ist pro­test­ers gath­ered in McIn­tire Park, out­side down­town.

Coun­ter­demon­stra­tors — in­clud­ing Har­vard Uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sor and po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist Cor­nel West — gath­ered at the his­tor­i­cally black First Bap­tist Church near cam­pus. West ad­dressed the group at a sun­rise prayer ser­vice, say­ing he was present “bear­ing wit­ness to love and jus­tice in the face of white supremacy.”

At McIn­tire Park, the white na­tion­al­ists waved Con­fed­er­ate flags and other ban­ners. As a pho­tog­ra­pher took pic­tures, one of them iden­ti­fied him­self as Ted and in­di­cated he didn’t mind his pic­ture be­ing taken, say­ing he might want to run for po­lit­i­cal of­fice some day. He said he was from Mis­souri and “tired of see­ing white peo­ple pushed around.”

By 11 a.m., both groups had made their way to Eman­ci­pa­tion Park, and the scene ex­ploded into taunt­ing, shov­ing and out­right brawl­ing.

Wav­ing Con­fed­er­ate flags, chant­ing Nazi-era slo­gans, wear­ing hel­mets, and car­ry­ing shields and torches, the white na­tion­al­ists con­verged on the Lee statue and be­gan chant­ing phrases like “You will not re­place us” and “Jews will not re­place us.”

Then, hun­dreds of coun­ter­protesters — in­clud­ing re­li­gious lead­ers, Black Lives Mat­ter ac­tivists and anti-fas­cist groups known as “an­tifa” — sur­rounded the white na­tion­al­ists, singing spir­i­tu­als, chant­ing and car­ry­ing their own signs.

Bar­ri­cades en­cir­cling the park and sep­a­rat­ing the two groups be­gan to fall, and po­lice tem­po­rar­ily re­treated. Peo­ple were seen club­bing one an­other in the streets, and pep­per spray filled the air.

Declar­ing the gath­er­ing an un­law­ful as­sem­bly, po­lice cleared the area be­fore noon, and Vir­ginia Na­tional Guard troops ar­rived as of­fi­cers be­gan ar­rest­ing some peo­ple who re­mained. Fears lin­gered that the melee would start again nearby, as demon­stra­tors dis­persed into smaller groups.

Af­ter the white na­tion­al­ists had left, and a crowd of coun­ter­demon­stra­tors was mov­ing ju­bi­lantly near the mall, the gray sports car ac­cel­er­ated into the crowd.

Within an hour, gov­ern­ment lead­ers — in­clud­ing Demo­cratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. — had con­demned the vi­o­lence. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions said Jus­tice De­part­ment agents would sup­port lo­cal and state of­fi­cials in in­ves­ti­gat­ing the melee.

“This kind of vi­o­lence is to­tally con­trary to Amer­i­can val­ues and can never be tol­er­ated,” Ses­sions said in a state­ment.

Af­ter the white na­tion­al­ists’ rally, its or­ga­nizer, Ja­son Kessler, who calls him­self a “white ad­vo­cate,” com­plained in an in­ter­view that his group had been “forced into a very chaotic sit­u­a­tion.” He added, “The po­lice were sup­posed to be there pro­tect­ing us, and they stood down.”

BRAC­ING FOR TROU­BLE

The white na­tion­al­ists’ Char­lottesville protest, billed as a “Unite the Right” rally, was the cul­mi­na­tion of a year and a half of de­bate in Char­lottesville over the Lee statue. The move­ment to re­move it be­gan when a black high school stu­dent in the city started a pe­ti­tion.

The City Coun­cil voted 3-2 in April to sell the statue, but a judge is­sued an in­junc­tion tem­po­rar­ily stop­ping it.

As con­tro­versy over the statue in­ten­si­fied, the city braced for trou­ble. On Fri­day night, hun­dreds of white na­tion­al­ists marched on the pic­turesque grounds of the Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia, which was founded in 1819 by Thomas Jef­fer­son. The group in­cluded promi­nent white na­tion­al­ist fig­ures like Richard Spencer and David Duke, a for­mer im­pe­rial wiz­ard of the Ku Klux Klan.

“We’re go­ing to ful­fill the prom­ises of Don­ald Trump” to “take our coun­try back,” Duke told re­porters Sat­ur­day. Many of the white na­tion­al­ist pro­test­ers car­ried Trump cam­paign signs.

Duke lam­basted Trump later in the day af­ter the pres­i­dent con­demned Sat­ur­day’s vi­o­lence.

Uni­ver­sity of­fi­cials said one per­son was ar­rested Fri­day night and charged with as­sault and dis­or­derly con­duct, and sev­eral oth­ers were in­jured. Among those in­jured was a uni­ver­sity po­lice of­fi­cer hurt while mak­ing the ar­rest, the uni­ver­sity said in a state­ment.

City lead­ers de­clared a state of emer­gency in Char­lottesville around 11 a.m. Sat­ur­day, cit­ing an “im­mi­nent threat of civil dis­tur­bance, un­rest, po­ten­tial in­jury to per­sons, and de­struc­tion of pub­lic and per­sonal prop­erty.”

McAuliffe fol­lowed with his own dec­la­ra­tion an hour later.

“I am dis­gusted by the ha­tred, big­otry and vi­o­lence th­ese pro­test­ers have brought to our state over the past 24 hours,” he said in a state­ment.

AP/The Daily Progress/RYAN M. KELLY

A car sends peo­ple fly­ing Sat­ur­day as it plows into a crowd march­ing in protest against white na­tion­al­ists in Char­lottesville, Va. The driver was ar­rested, of­fi­cials said.

AP/STEVE HELBER

A white na­tion­al­ist demon­stra­tor joins the protest Sat­ur­day morn­ing at a Char­lottesville, Va., park for­merly named for Robert E. Lee but now called Eman­ci­pa­tion Park.

The New York Times/MATT EICH

White na­tion­al­ists clash with coun­ter­protesters Sat­ur­day in a Char­lottesville, Va., street.

The New York Times/EDU BAYER

Torch-bear­ing white na­tion­al­ists gather around a statue of Robert E. Lee dur­ing a demon­stra­tion Fri­day night in Char­lottesville, Va.

AP/Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch/SHELBY LUM

Au­thor­i­ties work near the scene where a Vir­ginia State Po­lice he­li­copter crashed, killing two, near Char­lottesville, Va., on Sat­ur­day. The he­li­copter was mon­i­tor­ing the protests.

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