Unite the Right rally turns violent, three die

Photos by staff, Eze Amos, Hawkins Dale and Aaron Cohen Photos by staff, Eze Amos, Hawkins Dale and Aaron Cohen

A 32-year-old woman died following today’s long-anticipated white nationalist assembly in Emancipation Park, and two Virginia State Police pilots perished in a crash late in the afternoon near the Bellair neighborhood.

The Unite the Right rally erupted in violence and was shut down before it ever began when city and county leaders declared a local state of emergency around 11:30am. Police deemed it an unlawful assembly shortly thereafter.

A silver car plowed through a large group of counterprotesters on Fourth Street around 1:30pm, leaving one person dead and 19 injured. According to eyewitness and Charlottesville resident Nic McCarthy, the car hit about a dozen people and backed over at least one before speeding off. It was later found at Monticello Road and Blenheim Avenue.

Police arrested Ohio resident James Alex Field, 20, from Ohio, who was charged with one count of second degree murder,  three counts of malicious wounding and one count of hit and run attended failure to stop with injury.

City officials said nearly 1,000 police officers would be on the scene, yet when fights erupted between alt-righters and antifas outside Emancipation Park—rally organizer Jason Kessler had a judge issue an injunction to keep the city from moving the event the day before—police were not immediately spotted.

Pepper spray, tear gas and bottles of urine were tossed between the two sides an hour before the noon rally was to begin. Around 11:39am, police called the event an unlawful assembly and ordered the park, filled with hundreds of alt-righters, cleared into the surrounding streets filled with counterprotesters.

UVA alum and Unite the Right headliner Richard Spencer pushed up against a line of riot police who were trying to clear the park and was maced twice.

Richard Spencer describes his ordeal of being maced twice by police to supporters at McIntire Park. Staff photo

“I cannot express my absolute outrage at the governor of Virginia and Mayor Mike Signer,” said Spencer around 1:40pm when his followers regrouped at McIntire Park. He said it was the first time he felt like his government was cracking down on him.

“As I was coming in, these antifa assaulted us,” said Spencer. He complained that Charlottesville police would not let him go past barriers, behind which was the stage platform. “We have a permit,” he said.

Virginia State Police in riot gear lined up against the remaining alt-whites still in the park. “They looked like stormtroopers,” said Spencer. “They were in effect pushing us out of Lee Park toward the Communists.”

After crowds dispersed from Emancipation, counterprotesters followed a group of alt-righters up the street to the Market Street Parking Garage where the latter group had vans waiting to take them to McIntire Park to continue their celebration of Western heritage.

Here, police did not intervene as the groups of enemies brawled and an elderly white-rights supporter was knocked to the ground and beaten with what appeared to be a wooden stick. Barricades were dismantled and used as weapons during the melee.

After a fight in the parking garage, a Black Lives Matter supporter emerged with a face full of blood and lay on the porch in front of NBC29 until medics arrived.

Many of those who came from out of town left McIntire Park after hearing Spencer, former KKK head David Duke and Mike Enoch, founder of alt-right media hub the Right Stuff, speak.

Shortly before 5pm, a Virginia State Police helicopter crashed in the woods near Old Farm Road. Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, 48, of Midlothian, and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, who would have turned 41 August 13, of Quinton, died at the scene.

At 6pm, Governor Terry McAuliffe and city officials held a press conference. McAuliffe sent a message to the “white supremacists and Nazis who came into Charlottesville today: Go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth.”

The night before, the white nationalists held a tiki-torch march through the grounds of UVA, where Kessler is also an alum. Fights broke out with a small group of counterprotesters surrounding, but no one was seriously injured.

This is a developing story and reports of disruptions continue.

Updated August 13.


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