CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — The college town of Charlottesville, Virginia, was rocked over the weekend by violent clashes between white nationalists and hundreds of counter protesters.
Three people were killed amid the turmoil, which has exposed the nation’s roiling racial and political divisions. The chaos has reverberated to the White House and Silicon Valley.
After facing mounting pressure since Saturday, President Donald Trump denounced white nationalist groups by name on Monday.
A federal civil rights investigation is underway after a 20-year-old Ohio man allegedly rammed his vehicle into a crowd of anti-racism protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman and seriously injuring scores of others.
And Google said it’s canceling the registration of a neo-Nazi website after an article mocked the woman who was run over and killed.
Federal and state authorities are also investigating after two Virginia State police troopers died when their helicopter crashed outside the city.
Here’s a look at what’s happened as well as the continuing aftermath of Charlottesville’s violent weekend:
White nationalists descended on the city to rally against plans to remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a city park.
An AP reporter and photographer who were on the scene Saturday estimated the white nationalist group at about 500 and the counter-protesters at double that. The gathering is believed to be the largest in a decade of such groups, including neo-Nazis, skinheads and members of the Ku Klux Klan. Hundreds of other people came out to protest against the racism.
Fights broke out Friday night, when hundreds of white nationalists marched through the University of Virginia campus carrying torches. The violence escalated Saturday with street brawls and clashes.
Rally supporters and counter-protesters threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays. Men dressed in militia uniforms were carrying shields and long guns.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency. Police in riot gear ordered people out. Helicopters circled overhead.
THE CAR CRASH
On Saturday afternoon, a Dodge Challenger barreled through a street filled with peaceful counter protesters. The impact hurled people into the air, and video of the crash shows the car reversing and hitting more people.
Heather Heyer, 32, of Charlottesville, was killed. At least 19 other people were injured.
Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, told The Associated Press that Heyer was a courageous, stubborn, and principled woman. She said her daughter was a firm believer in justice and equality and had died for those beliefs.
James Alex Fields Jr., who had recently moved to Ohio from where he grew up in Kentucky, was charged with second-degree murder and other counts. He’s being held in jail without bail.
Fields was fascinated with Nazism, idolized Adolf Hitler, and had been singled out in the 9th grade for his “deeply held, radical” convictions on race, his former high school teacher Derek Weimer told The AP.
Police records from Florence, Kentucky, show that Fields’ mother had called police on him twice. In an incident in 2010, his mother, Samantha Bloom, said Fields smacked her in the head and locked her in the bathroom after she told him to stop playing video games. Bloom told officers Fields was on medication to control his temper.
THE HELICOPTER CRASH
As the violence waned Saturday, a state police helicopter deployed in a large-scale police response to the violence crashed outside the city. Both troopers onboard were killed.
Authorities identified them as Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Berke M.M. Bates, who was one day shy of his 41st birthday.
Cullen was a 23-year veteran of the department and head of the aviation unit. He is survived by his wife and two sons. Berke joined the department in 2004, and is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.
Gov. McAuliffe frequently uses state police aircraft to travel and said Cullen, 48, had been one of his regular pilots. Before joining the aviation unit, Bates has been a member of the state trooper team that guards the governor and his family.
McAuliffe expressed grief over their deaths.
“It was personal to me,” McAuliffe said Sunday at a church service. “We were very close.”
President Trump on Saturday condemned the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” in Charlottesville.
The statement drew widespread ire. Democrats and some Republicans called on him to specifically denounce white supremacy. But the Daily Stormer, a white supremacist website that promoted the demonstration, praised Trump’s reaction.
“Nothing specific against us,” the website stated. “No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”
Pressure mounted from both political parties for Trump to explicitly condemn the hate groups. And the CEO of the nation’s third largest pharmaceutical company resigned Monday from the President’s American Manufacturing Council.
Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier said he had “a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”
Later that day, Trump said at a press conference that “racism is evil” and condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists as “criminals and thugs.”
Google has also canceled the Daily Stormer’s website registration. The tech giant said the site violated its terms of service after an article mocked Heyer, the woman who was killed Saturday in Charlottesville.
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