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Virginia city rocked by white nationalist protests; one arrest

Sunday, August 13, 2017

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA (AP) — Hundreds of people chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other yesterday after violence erupted at a white nationalist rally in Virginia. At least one person was arrested.

Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency, and police dressed in riot gear ordered people at the rally in Charlottesville to disperse after chaotic clashes between white nationalists and counter protesters.

Small bands of protesters who showed up to express their opposition to the rally were seen marching around the city peacefully by mid-afternoon, chanting and waving flags. Helicopters circled overhead. As of 12:30 pm, a city spokeswoman said a single arrest was reported. Emergency medical personnel have responded to eight injuries related to the event.

Right-wing blogger Jason Kessler had called for what he termed a “pro-white” rally to protest the city of Charlottesville's decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee from a downtown park.

It's the latest confrontation in Charlottesville since the city about 100 miles outside of Washington, DC, 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 night-time protest, and in July, about 50 members of a North Carolina-based KKK group travelled 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.

Between rally attendees and counter protesters, authorities were expecting as many as 6,000 people, Charlottesville police said this week.

Police instituted road closures around downtown and many businesses in the popular open-air shopping mall opted to close for the day.

Both local hospitals said they had taken precautions to prepare for an influx of patients and had extra staff on call.

There were also fights Friday night when hundreds of white nationalists marched through the University of Virginia campus carrying torches.

A university spokesman said one person was arrested and several people were injured.

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

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

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