Turmoil in Virginia touches a nerve across US

Protesters celebrate after toppling a statue of a Confederate soldier in Durham, North Carolina on Monday. Activists used a rope to pull down the monument outside a Durham courthouse. (AP photo)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia — A Virginia college town was rocked over the weekend by violent clashes between white nationalists and hundreds of counter protesters.


Three people were killed amid the turmoil in Charlottesville, 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 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 cancelling 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:

(Video Twitter/us )

The protests

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 Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency. Police in riot gear ordered people out. Helicopters circled overhead.

Protestors gathering at 59th Street and 5th Avenue in New York sit during a moment of silence on Monday, as they protest President Donald Trump not far from Trump Tower. One person holds a sign referring to Heather Heyer who was killed in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, after a car ploughed into a crowd. (AP Photo)

The car crash

On Saturday afternoon, a Dodge Challenger barrelled 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 died for those beliefs.

(Reuters video)

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.

Mr Fields was fascinated with Nazism, idolised 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 Mr Fields’ mother had called police on him twice. In an incident in 2010, his mother, Samantha Bloom, said Mr Fields smacked her in the head and locked her in the bathroom after she told him to stop playing video games. Ms Bloom told officers Mr Fields was on medication to control his temper.

These undated photos provided by the Virginia State Police show Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, left, of Quinton, Va., and Lt. H. Jay Cullen, of Midlothian, Va. The two were killed Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, when the helicopter they were piloting crashed while assisting public safety resources during clashes at a nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. (AP photo)

The helicopter crash

As the violence waned Saturday, a state police helicopter deployed in a large-scale police response crashed outside the city. Both troopers on board 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 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.

Mr McAuliffe expressed grief over their deaths.

“It was personal to me,” Mr McAuliffe said Sunday at a church service. “We were very close.”

Takoda Patterson (centre) protests against racism in Oakland, Calif., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. A group of several hundred demonstrators gathered to decry racism following deadly violence that erupted at a white nationalist demonstration in Virginia. (AP Photo)

The reaction

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 Mr 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 Mr Trump to explicitly condemn the hate groups. Three members of a White House advisory council — Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich — announced they were resigning from the panel in protest. Mr Frazier said he had “a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”

Mr Trump said at a Monday news conference that “racism is evil” and condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists as “criminals and thugs”.

Google has also cancelled 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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