CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (Reuters) – A gathering of hundreds of white nationalists in Virginia took a deadly turn on Saturday when a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters and killed at least one person in a flare up of violence that challenged U.S. President Donald Trump.
The state’s governor blamed neo-Nazis for sparking the unrest in the college town of Charlottesville where rival groups fought pitched battles using rocks and pepper spray after far-right protesters converged to demonstrate against a plan to remove a statue to a Confederate war hero.
A car slammed into a crowd of people, killing a 32-year-old woman, police said. Video on social media and Reuters photographs showed the car hit a large group of counter-protesters, sending some flying into the air.
Two Virginia policeman died in a helicopter crash nearby after assisting efforts to quell the clashes.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, declared an emergency and halted a white nationalist rally, while President Donald Trump condemned the violence.
“I have a message to all the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today. Our message is plain and simple: go home,” McAuliffe told a news conference.
“You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you,” he said.
The clashes highlight how the white supremacist movement has resurfaced under the “alt-right” banner after years in the shadows of mainstream American politics.
Trump said “many sides” were involved in the Charlottesville incidents, drawing fire from across the political spectrum for not specifically denouncing the far right. The violence presented Trump with perhaps the first domestic crisis of his young administration.
“We’re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia,” Trump told reporters at his New Jersey golf course.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”
A reporter shouted a question to Trump about whether he had spoken out strongly enough against white nationalists but the president made no comment.
A man from Ohio was held by police on charges relating to the car incident, including second-degree murder, according to Martin Kumer, Albemarle Charlottesville’s regional jail superintendent.
The suspect was James Alex Fields, Jr., a 20-year-old white man from Ohio, Kumer said. It was not clear why the suspect was in Charlottesville, home to the University…