CHARLOTTESVILLE: A picturesque Virginia city braced on 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.
Thousands were expected to descend on Charlottesville either to demonstrate in or rail against a “Unite the Right Rally,” hours after hundreds of torch-bearing marchers demonstrated at the normally tranquil city’s university campus.
On Friday the state’s governor Terry McAuliffe in a statement called on Virginians to stay clear of the rallies, but by Saturday morning hundreds from both sides had already begun to skirmish. Police began evacuating the city’s Emancipation Park and making arrests after declaring those gathered there to be part of an “unlawful assembly.” There were two “serious but not life-threatening” injuries, police reported on Twitter.
They also tweeted that some crowd members were using pepper spray. A journalist at the scene witnessed demonstrators, some clad in militia uniforms, throwing punches and hurling bottles even before the official 12pm rally start time.
In light of the unrest, city leaders declared a state of emergency, determining “the imminent threat of civil disturbance, unrest, potential injury to persons, and destruction of public and personal property to be of sufficient severity and magnitude to warrant coordinated local government action.”
Saturday’s far-right rally follows a much smaller demonstration last month that saw a few dozen Ku Klux Klan-linked marchers gather to protest the city’s planned removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee, who led Confederate forces in the US Civil War.
Though they were outnumbered by hundreds of jeering counter-protesters, the extreme right marchers — some donning the traditional white hood of the notorious white power group — saw their images spread worldwide on social media.
Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2017