Violent white nationalist protests prompt state of emergency in Virginia

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency Saturday as far-right groups and counterprotesters clashed on the streets of Charlottesville.

The declaration follows lawmakers on both sides of the aisle condemning the protesters for spreading hate and violent skirmishes between opposing sides, leading to local officials declaring a need for additional resources in the Virginia college town as a planned rally grew violent. 
 
McAuliffe said on Saturday night that at least three people were killed in the violent clashes.
 
President Trump weighed in on the protests with a tweet about an hour after it became an emergency, from his vacation in Bedminster, New Jersey. He said everyone must condemn "all that hate stands for." 
The first lady was the first member of the administration to respond, drawing a line between "freedom of speech" and violence.
 
Charlottesville's Mayor Mike Signer responded to Trump's tweet, saying the "work is just beginning." 
 
 
Skirmishes ignited hours before a scheduled noon protest at Charlottesville's Emancipation Park, where white supremacists, white nationalists and alt-right groups were set to protest the city's decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. 
 
The governor declared a state of emergency shortly before the rally officially started.
 
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In a statement issued shortly after the emergency declaration, McAuliffe said that his office had prepared for weeks to ensure that the protest remained peaceful.

But he said that it quickly became clear on Saturday that “public safety cannot be safeguarded without additional powers.”

“I am disgusted by the hatred, bigotry and violence these protesters have brought to our state over the past 24 hours,” McAuliffe, a Democrat, said. “The actions I have taken are intended to assist local government and restore public safety.”
 
 
"I'm deeply disturbed that our country has to wake up to headlines of torch-wielding white nationalists promoting bigotry and inciting fear on a college campus in Virginia," Kaine wrote on Facebook. 
 
"I'm praying for, and urging, peace today. Racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric sow seeds of hatred in our communities. That's not who we are, that's not what Virginians stand for, and we have no intention of moving backwards toward the division of the past. People peddling in hate from outside of Charlottesville will never define this vibrant community."
 
 
Soon after the emergency declaration, police declared an unlawful assembly at the park and began asking crowds there to disperse. Protest organizers are insisting they left peacefully.

Video of the chaos shows police dressed in riot gear marching on the scene as some people appeared to leave the park. 

Tensions were high in Charlottesville ahead of the protest. Men holding bats and clubs and wearing helmets clashed with one another in the streets, with police doing little to break up the violence according to The Washington Post.

The state National Guard were also placed on standby, but were not in the area where the clashes broke out. 

A protest on the campus of the University of Virginia on Friday that appeared to be connected to Saturday's event resulted in at least one person taken away in handcuffs.

Saturday's protest has drawn widespread condemnation by both Democrats and Republicans, who denounced the white nationalist gathering as a display of bigotry. 

House Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanRyan: Graham-Cassidy 'best, last chance' to repeal ObamaCare Ryan: Americans want to see Trump talking with Dem leaders Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea MORE (R-Wis.) took to Twitter to condemn the demonstration, saying that the views driving the rally were "repugnant."

Likewise, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel called the demonstration "dangerous and cowardly."

Republican Ed Gillespie, who is challenging Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam in the state’s gubernatorial race, denounced the white nationalist protest, saying that such “displays have no place” in Virginia.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) delivered a forceful rebuke of the demonstration as a "reminder that hate remains a force that we must recognize, reckon with, and fight against."

 

First Lady Melania Trump tweeted shortly after the state of emergency was declared, asking protesters to communicate without hate. Vice President Pence followed with a statement of solidarity with the president.

 

- This post was updated at 7:33 p.m.