Car rams crowd at protest; 1 killed

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Joe Heim, El­lie Sil­ver­man, T. Rees Shapiro and Emma Brown

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA.» Chaos and vi­o­lence turned to tragedy Sat­ur­day as hun­dreds of white na­tion­al­ists, neo-nazis and Ku Klux Klan mem­bers --- plan­ning to stage what they de­scribed as their largest rally in decades to “take Amer­ica back” — clashed with coun­ter­protesters in the streets and a car plowed into crowds, leav­ing one per­son dead and 19 oth­ers in­jured.

Hours later, two state po­lice of­fi­cers died when their he­li­copter crashed at the out­skirts of town. Of­fi­cials iden­ti­fied them as Berke M.M. Bates of Quin­ton, Va., who was the pi­lot, and H. Jay Cullen of Mid­loth­ian, Va., who was a pas­sen­ger. State po­lice said their Bell 407 he­li­copter was as­sist­ing with the un­rest in Charlottesville. Bates died one day be­fore his 41st birth­day; Cullen was 48.

Gov. Terry Mcauliffe. a Demo-

crat, who had de­clared a state of emer­gency in the morn­ing, said at an evening news con­fer­ence that he had a mes­sage for “all the white su­prem­a­cists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville to­day: Go home. You are not wanted in this great com­mon­wealth.”

Mau­rice Jones, Charlottesville’s African-amer­i­can city man­ager, looked stricken as he spoke. “Hate came to our town to­day in a way that we had feared, but we had never re­ally let our­selves imag­ine would,” he said.

State and lo­cal of­fi­cials de­clined to take re­porters’ ques­tions and abruptly left af­ter mak­ing state­ments.

In an emer­gency meet­ing Sat­ur­day evening, the Charlottesville City Coun­cil voted unan­i­mously to give po­lice the power to en­act a cur­few or oth­er­wise re­strict as­sem­bly as nec­es­sary to pro­tect pub­lic safety.

Video of the car crash shows a 2010 gray Dodge Chal­lenger ac­cel­er­at­ing into crowds on a pedes­trian mall, send­ing bod­ies fly­ing — and then re­vers­ing at high speed, hit­ting more peo­ple. Wit­nesses said the street was filled with peo­ple op­posed to the white na­tion­al­ists who had come to town bear­ing Con­fed­er­ate flags and anti-semitic ep­i­thets.

A 32-year-old woman was killed, ac­cord­ing to po­lice, who said they were in­ves­ti­gat­ing the crash as a crim­i­nal homi­cide.

The driver of the Chal­lenger, James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio, was ar­rested and charged with one count of sec­ond-de­gree mur­der, three counts of ma­li­cious wound­ing, and one count of hit-and-run at­tended fail­ure to stop with in­jury, po­lice said. He is be­ing held with­out bail and is sched­uled to be ar­raigned Mon- day, Albe­marle-charlottesville Re­gional Jail Su­per­in­ten­dent Mar­tin Kumer said.

U.S. of­fi­cials late Sat­ur­day opened a civil rights in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the in­ci­dent. In a state­ment, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions said, “The vi­o­lence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of Amer­i­can law and jus­tice. When such ac­tions arise from racial big­otry and ha­tred, they be­tray our core val­ues and can­not be tol­er­ated.”

Po­lice made three other ar­rests in con­nec­tion with vi­o­lence ear­lier in the day, on charges of as­sault and bat­tery, dis­or­derly con­duct and car­ry­ing a con­cealed weapon.

Records show Fields last lived in Maumee, about 15 miles south­west of Toledo.

Fields’ fa­ther was killed by a drunk driver a few months be­fore the boy’s birth, ac­cord­ing to an un­cle who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity. His fa­ther left him money that the un­cle kept in a trust un­til Fields reached adult­hood.

“When he turned 18, he de­manded his money, and that was the last I had any con­tact with him,” the un­cle said.

Fields, he said, grew up mostly in North­ern Ken­tucky, where he had been raised by a sin­gle mother who was a para­plegic. The un­cle, who saw Fields mostly at fam­ily gath­er­ings, de­scribed his nephew as “not re­ally friendly, more sub­dued.”

Fields’ 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 (Pres­i­dent Don­ald) Trump. Trump’s not a white su­prem­a­cist,” Bloom said.

An­gela Tay­lor, a spokes­woman for the Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia Med­i­cal Cen­ter, said 19 oth­ers were brought to the hos­pi­tal in the early af­ter­noon af­ter the car bar­reled through the pedes­trian mall. Five were in crit­i­cal con­di­tion as of Sat­ur­day evening. An­other 14 peo­ple were hurt in street brawls, city of­fi­cials said.

Ear­lier, po­lice evac­u­ated a down­town park as ral­ly­go­ers and coun­ter­protesters traded blows and hurled bot­tles and chem­i­cal ir­ri­tants at one an­other, putting an end to the noon rally be­fore it of­fi­cially be­gan.

De­spite the de­ci­sion to quash the rally, clashes con­tin­ued on side streets and through­out down­town, in­clud­ing the pedes­trian mall at Wa­ter and Fourth streets where the Chal­lenger slammed into coun­ter­protesters and two other cars in the early af­ter­noon, send­ing by­standers run­ning and scream­ing.

“I am heart­bro­ken that a life has been lost here,” Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer said in a tweet. “I urge all peo­ple of good will — go home.”

Elected lead­ers in Vir­ginia and else­where urged peace, blast­ing the white su­prem­a­cist views on dis­play in Charlottesville as ugly. U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-wis., called the dis­play “re­pug­nant.”

But Trump, known for his rapid-fire tweets, re­mained silent through­out the morn­ing. It was af­ter 1 p.m. when he weighed in, writ­ing on Twit­ter: “We ALL must be united & con­demn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of vio- lence in Amer­ica. Lets come to­gether as one!”

In brief re­marks at a lateafter­noon news con­fer­ence in New Jer­sey to dis­cuss vet­er­ans’ health care, Trump said he was fol­low­ing the events in Charlottesville closely. “The hate and the di­vi­sion must stop and must stop right now,” Trump said, with­out specif­i­cally men­tion­ing white na­tion­al­ists or their views. “We con­demn in the strong­est pos­si­ble terms this egre­gious dis­play of ha­tred, big­otry and vi­o­lence on many sides. On many sides.”

For­mer Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, a Trump sup­porter who was in Charlottesville on Sat­ur­day, quickly replied. “I would rec­om­mend you take a good look in the mir­ror & re­mem­ber it was White Amer­i­cans who put you in the pres­i­dency, not rad­i­cal left­ists,” he wrote.

Dozens of the white na­tion­al­ists in Charlottesville were wear­ing red “Make Amer­ica Great Again” hats. Asked by a re­porter in New Jer­sey whether he wanted the sup­port of white na­tion­al­ists, Trump did not re­spond.

Chan Wil­liams, 22, was among the coun­ter­protesters at the pedes­trian mall, chant­ing “Black Lives Mat­ter” and “Whose streets? Our streets!” The marchers blocked traf­fic, but Wil­liams said driv­ers weren’t an­noyed. In­stead, she said, they waved or honked in sup­port.

So when she heard a car en­gine rev up and saw the peo­ple in front of her dodg­ing a mov­ing car, she didn’t know what to think.

“I saw the car hit bod­ies, legs in the air,” she said. “You try to grab the peo­ple clos­est to you and take shel­ter.”

Wil­liams and friend Ge­orge Hal­l­i­day ducked into a shop with an open door and called their moth­ers im­me­di­ately. An hour later, the two were still vis­i­bly up­set.

“I just saw shoes on the road,” said Hal­l­i­day, 20. “It all hap­pened in two sec­onds.”

Sat­ur­day’s “Unite the Right” rally was meant to protest the planned re­moval of a statue of Con­fed­er­ate Gen­eral Robert E. Lee. The city of Charlottesville voted to re­move the statue ear­lier this year, but it re­mains in Eman­ci­pa­tion Park, for­merly known as Lee Park, pend­ing a judge’s rul­ing ex­pected later this month.

Ten­sions be­gan to es­ca­late Fri­day as hun­dreds of white na­tion­al­ists marched through the Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia cam­pus, chant­ing “White lives mat­ter,” “You will not re­place us” and “Jews will not re­place us.”

They were met by coun­ter­protesters at the base of a statue of Thomas Jef­fer­son, who founded the uni­ver­sity. One coun­ter­protester ap­par­ently de­ployed a chem­i­cal spray, which sent about a dozen ral­ly­go­ers in search of med­i­cal as­sis­tance.

On Sat­ur­day morn­ing, peo­ple in com­bat gear — some wear­ing bi­cy­cle and mo­tor­cy­cle hel­mets and car­ry­ing clubs, sticks and makeshift shields — fought one an­other on down­town streets, with lit­tle ap­par­ent po­lice in­ter­fer­ence.

Both sides sprayed chem­i­cal ir­ri­tants and hurled plas­tic bot­tles through the air.

A large con­tin­gent of Charlottesville po­lice of­fi­cers and Vir­ginia State Po­lice troop­ers in riot gear were sta­tioned on side streets and at nearby bar­ri­cades but did noth­ing to break up the melee un­til about 11:40 a.m.

Us­ing mega­phones, po­lice then de­clared an un­law­ful as­sem­bly and gave a five-minute warn­ing to leave Eman­ci­pa­tion Park.

“The worst part is that peo­ple got hurt and the po­lice stood by and didn’t do a g------ thing,” said David Cop­per, 70, of Staunton, Va.

Ryan M. Kelly, The Daily Progress

Peo­ple fly into the air as a ve­hi­cle plows into a group of coun­ter­protesters demon­strat­ing against a rally by white na­tion­al­ists in Charlottesville, Va., on Sat­ur­day. One per­son was killed and 19 were in­jured.

Chip Somodevilla, Getty Im­ages

Bat­tle lines form be­tween white na­tion­al­ists, neo-nazis and mem­bers of the “al­tright” and coun­ter­protesters at the en­trance to Lee Park dur­ing the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Sat­ur­day.

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