Political News

Officials: White nationalist rally linked to 3 deaths

Posted 10:17 p.m. Saturday
Updated 9:14 a.m. Sunday

— A car plowed into a crowd of people peacefully protesting a white nationalist rally Saturday in a Virginia college town, killing one person, hurting more than a dozen others and ratcheting up tension in a day full of violent confrontations.

Shortly after, a Virginia State Police helicopter that officials said was assisting with the rally crashed outside Charlottesville, killing the pilot and a trooper.

The chaos boiled over at what is believed to be the largest group of white nationalists to come together in a decade. The governor declared a state of emergency, and police dressed in riot gear ordered people out. The group had gathered to protest plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, and others arrived to protest the racism.

Matt Korbon, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, said several hundred counter-protesters were marching when "suddenly there was just this tire screeching sound." A silver Dodge Challenger smashed into another car, then backed up, barreling through "a sea of people."

James Alex Fields Jr.

The impact hurled people into the air. Those left standing scattered, screaming and running for safety in different directions.

The driver was later identified by police as James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio. Police say Fields, 20, has been charged with charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count related to leaving the scene. A bond hearing is scheduled for Monday.

The turbulence began Friday night, when the white nationalists carried torches though the University of Virginia campus. It quickly spiraled into violence Saturday morning. Hundreds of people threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays. At least one person was arrested in connection.

City officials said the car collision left 19 people injured and said they treated 35 patients altogether.

Charlottesville victims

State Police said in a statement that the helicopter was "assisting public safety resources with the ongoing situation" when it crashed in a wooded area. The pilot, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, 48, of Midlothian, Virginia, and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates of Quinton, Virginia, died at the scene.

President Donald Trump condemned "in the strongest possible terms" what he called an "egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides" after the clashes. He called for "a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives."

Trump said he had spoken with the governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, and "we agreed that the hate and the division must stop and must stop right now."

But some of the white nationalists cited Trump's victory as validation for their beliefs, and Trump's critics pointed to the president's racially tinged rhetoric as exploiting the nation's festering racial tension.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson noted that Trump for years publicly questioned President Barack Obama's citizenship.

"We are in a very dangerous place right now," he said.

Right-wing blogger Jason Kessler had called for what he termed a "pro-white" rally in Charlottesville, sparked by the monument decision. White nationalists and their opponents promoted the event for weeks.

Oren Segal, who directs the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism, said multiple white power groups gathered in Charlottesville, including members of neo-Nazi organizations, racist skinhead groups and Ku Klux Klan factions.

The white nationalist organizations Vanguard America and Identity Evropa; the Southern nationalist League of the South; the National Socialist Movement; the Traditionalist Workers Party; and the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights also were on hand, he said, along with several groups with a smaller presence.

On the other side, anti-fascist demonstrators also gathered in Charlottesville, but they generally aren't organized like white nationalist factions, said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Many others were just locals caught in the fray.

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 son, who is black, 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 "counter-protesters are crazier than the alt-right."

"Both sides are hoping for a confrontation," he said.

It's the latest hostility in Charlottesville since the city about 100 miles outside of Washington, D.C., voted earlier this year to remove a statue of Lee.

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 people."

"This is about an anti-white climate within the Western world and the need for white people to have advocacy like other groups do," he said in an interview.

Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer said he was disgusted that the white nationalists had come to his town and blamed Trump for inflaming racial prejudices.

"I'm not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you're seeing in American today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president," he said.

Charlottesville, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is a liberal-leaning city that's home to the flagship UVA and Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.

The statue's removal is part of a broader city effort to change the way Charlottesville's history of race is told in public spaces. The city has also renamed Lee Park, where the statue stands, and Jackson Park, named for Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. They're now called Emancipation Park and Justice Park, respectively.

For now, the Lee statue remains. A group called the Monument Fund filed a lawsuit arguing that removing the statue would violate a state law governing war memorials. A judge has agreed to temporarily block the city from removing the statue for six months.


Associated Press writers Alan Suderman in Richmond, Virginia, Heidi Brown in Charlottesville, and Claire Galofaro in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report.

Secessionists push for South to break away from US again


Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Joe Eastland Aug 13, 11:40 a.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Convenient facts don't change the real facts. Confederates and pro-slave confederates were democrats. You may not like it, but that award hangs around your neck. Now on to the real discussion about yesterday...two groups, not one, causing violence. I also don't see the media or you for that matter calling out some segments of BLM who call for "killing whites". So let's all be honest with each other here. Until then, more devisiveness will exist.

  • Joe Eastland Aug 13, 9:52 a.m.
    user avatar

    Confederates were Southern Democrats. Just sayin. So before you try and put this off on Republicans, maybe you should look a few years back in the mirror. This is caused because the media and the left have attacked and denigrated whites and whites are starting to push back. The same thing happened with BLM and other groups who have felt disenfranchised. You say all you want about how this was different. Fact is, it is not. I saw two groups who were involved in this, not just one. No ONE group is responsible for those pilots. If you continue to push, more will continue to push back. We live together when ALL are treated equally, not some.

  • Jeff Freuler Aug 13, 9:42 a.m.
    user avatar

    Some of these comments prove there's plenty racism and stereotyping coming from both sides of the isle.

    If you can't see it then you're blind in one eye and cannot see out of the other that racism is just much alive in both colors here pointing the finger.

  • Albert Holmes Aug 13, 9:30 a.m.
    user avatar

    I don't agree with any protest because there are better ways to voice your opinion. But the mayor and the city gave them a permit to protest !!! They should have been the only ones on the street. And when you come to the protest wearing riot gear you just started trouble then. And how in the heck can a protest on a street be the blame for a helicopter crashing ? My prayers go out to the officers and their family but is their an investigation to find out what really cause the crash? And you want to blame someone for all this ! Then blame Obama, Nicki Haley and the NAACP who started this a few years ago in South Carolina !

  • Nathaniel Lincoln Aug 13, 8:42 a.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    For the record i disavow the idea of "lynching " people without trial. Only a racist would even think of doing such a thing. The mob mentality has never been a good thing for human beings. The founding fathers hundreds of years ago knew this and that's why we have a constitution , bill of rights etc.

  • Nathaniel Lincoln Aug 13, 8:36 a.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Sounds like you'd fit right in with the KKK sir. Look in the mirror man

  • Scott Patterson Aug 13, 8:18 a.m.
    user avatar

    I thought this act of white terrorism would have woken some of you up. Nope, lets compare these NAZIS to BLM. You ignorant white people could at least have a problem with other whites, who you obvioulsy identify with to a degree, when they start killing and targeting minorities in the streets of America in the name of your president. And i use the world president very loosely in that sentence. That kid driving the car deserves to be hung in the streets for all to see...

  • Nathaniel Lincoln Aug 13, 8:10 a.m.
    user avatar

    Trump can do no right in the eyes of the pc spin doctors . The left has lobotomized so many of the "believers" these are low information individuals and they have been indoctrinated in lies since their first days in public education. History to them is merely a rewritable vehicle to be used to promote their ideology and not objectively observed to gain wisdom. The individual killer in Charlottesville will be prosecuted , he is a domestic terrorist. Trump and Pence disavowed all hate groups and rightfully so. Why is it that this "news" agency only covers the acts of white domestic terrorists with so much obsession though. From islamic terrorism to the anti free speech hatred at Berkeley and Anti Fa. It all should be condemned . Picking on one group repeatedly hiding the facts about other hate groups is only proving the "alt rights" point that the MSM can't be trusted . This disaster it's 100% on the left and MSM they are loving this. It's all about viewership and ratings to them

  • Jackie Strouble Aug 12, 10:36 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Really? Well here's what some other folks have read into Trump's remarks:

    "Alt-right leader Richard Spencer and former Ku Klux Klan member David Duke attended the demonstrations. Duke told reporters that the white nationalists were working to 'fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.'"

    "Trump's speech also drew praise from the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, which wrote: 'Trump comments were good. He didn't attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. ... No condemnation at all.' The website had been promoting the Charlottesville demonstration as part of its 'Summer of Hate' edition."

    Now how do you suppose the racists got it into their heads that Trump is on their side? Was it the blatant racism he demonstrated throughout his campaign? Or maybe it's the gold-plated dog whistle he's been tweeting on ever since he was selected president...

  • Andrew Rose Aug 12, 10:08 p.m.
    user avatar

    White nationalists..smh. are we so pc now we can't call a racist a racist without fear of offending them? Blame this person, blame that person..be outraged etc etc. It's the presidents fault..no it's the democrats because they want to erase history yada yada yada. We all have our opinions. If people weren't so bent on being "right" and imposing their will on those who don't agree maybe we can find some common ground and get rid of the real enemies to society