A state of emergency has been declared in Charlottesville, Virginia. Ahead of a “Unite the Right” rally at the city’s Emancipation Park, far-right groups, including neo-Nazis, and counter-protestors clashed violently. The police declared the situation an unlawful assembly while the governor, Terry McAuliffe, declared it a state of emergency.
The rally was focused on a 20-foot statue of the Confederate general Robert E Lee, which the council voted to remove early this year. Winning by a narrow margin, the issue has caused controversy— as had the renaming of the park from Lee Park to Emancipation Park. Today, in an attempt to ‘guard’ the statute, far-right activists began entering the park— some of them reportedly toting racist paraphernalia. Tensions between them and the counter-protestors escalated quickly, becoming violent.
“By 11.15am ET, missiles such as empty bottles were being exchanged at the south-east end of the park,” the Guardian reports. “Far-right supporters formed a ‘Roman tortoise’ shield wall at the gate. Counter-protesters cleared when a gas weapon was released.
“Shortly later, smoke grenades were launched from the park into the crowd of counter-protesters. On both occasions, those in the street beat a hasty and uncoordinated retreat.
“At around 11:40am ET, after almost an hour of missile exchanges, gas attacks and intermittent face to face melees, police declared the Unite the Right assembly illegal and cleared the park with riot troops. Largely the far right groups were compliant, but they were forced to run the gauntlet of counter-protesters as they walked west along Market Street.
“The local rightwing activist and former Daily Caller writer Jason Kessler organized the Unite the Right event, planned to involve speeches from leading ‘alt-right’ ideologues including Richard Spencer, the podcaster Mike Peinovich, AKA ‘Mike Enoch’, and Matthew Heimbach, leader of the Traditionalist Workers party.”
WATCH: White nationalists and counter-protesters clash at Charlottesville rally https://t.co/4qH1yJjrGy
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 12, 2017
While at the time of writing, President Trump has yet to comment on the situation, the First Lady has condemned the events. With rising tensions between the left and right over recent months, especially since Trump’s election, many will be waiting to see how he weighs in. Though Charlottesville is a liberal, modern city where 80 percent of the voters supported Hilary Clinton last year, it has been attracting right-wing activists and Klu Klux Klan members recently. Upset by the city’s plan to remove signs of the confederacy from state buildings and areas, they have come to protest.
Only last night, white nationalists appeared on the University of Virginia’s campus chanting “blood and soil” and “you will not replace us”. The mayor of Charlottesville called the march on Friday a “cowardly parade of hatred, bigotry, racism, and intolerance march down the lawns of the architect of our Bill of Rights”.
“Everyone has a right under the First Amendment to express their opinion peaceably, so here’s mine: not only as the Mayor of Charlottesville, but as a UVA faculty member and alumnus, I am beyond disgusted by this unsanctioned and despicable display of visual intimidation on a college campus.”
UPDATE: Several protestors at Charlottesville, Virginia heard chanting 'Heil Trump'
— The Spectator Index (@spectatorindex) August 12, 2017
The situation is ongoing, but serves as an example of increased tensions between the far-right and left in America.