By SARAH RANKIN, Associated Press
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) —
Virginia’s governor has declared a state of emergency in response to a white nationalist rally that is expected to draw up to 6,000 people.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe said via his Twitter account on Saturday morning that the declaration was made in order “to aid state response to violence” at the rally in Charlottesville, about 100 miles outside of Washington, D.C.
It’s the latest confrontation in the city since it voted earlier this year to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a downtown park.
The city’s manager also declared a local emergency and police ordered people to disperse from the area around the statue after several violent clashes broke out.
Hundreds of people are facing off in Charlottesville ahead of a white nationalist rally planned in the Virginia city’s downtown.
Rally supporters and counter-protesters screamed, chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Saturday morning.
Men dressed in militia uniforms were carrying shields and openly carrying long guns. Right-wing blogger Jason Kessler planned what he called a “pro-white” rally to protest Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
City officials declared a local emergency shortly after 11 a.m.
Colleen Cook, 26, stood on a curb shouting at the rally attendees to go home.
Cook, a teacher who attended the University of Virginia, said she sent her black son out of town for the weekend.
“This isn’t how he should have to grow up,” she said.
Cliff Erickson leaned against a fence and took in the scene. He said he thinks removing the statue amounts to erasing history and said the “counterprotesters are crazier than the alt-right.”
“Both sides are hoping for a confrontation,” he said.
It’s the latest confrontation in Charlottesville since the city about 100 miles outside of Washington, D.C., voted earlier this year to remove a statue of Lee from a downtown park.
In May, a torch-wielding group that included prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer gathered around the statue for a nighttime protest, and in July, about 50 members of a North Carolina-based KKK group traveled there for a rally, where they were met by hundreds of counter-protesters.
Kessler said this week that the rally is partly about the removal of Confederate symbols but also about free speech and “advocating for white…