Charlottesville protest

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Charlottesville declared state of emergency, white supremacist groups ordered to disperse

The protest ended before it was scheduled to begin.


Samantha Grasso


Posted on Aug 12, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 8:47 pm CDT

Local authorities and the governor of Virginia have declared a state of emergency in Charlottesville after Saturday’s planned “Unite the Right” protest descended into chaos.

The protesters, consisting of white supremacists, white nationalists, and leaders of the alt-right movement, opposed the removal of a Confederate General Robert E. Lee statue.  They have been ordered to leave the site of the protest, Emancipation Park, amid violent encounters with the counter protesters who outnumbered them. According to video footage shared by several reporters on the scene, tear gas and pepper spray have been used to control the crowds, and physical fights have broken out throughout the morning.

While the protest wasn’t scheduled to begin until noon, the scene grew more violent in the hours leading up to the declarations of emergency, with protesters chanting “You will not replace us,” as a group of white supremacists had done the night before during a protest on the University of Virginia campus. According to the New York Times, counter protesters shouted at the crowd from across metal barricades that surrounded the park.

Before 11am local time, state police lined the park in riot gear and warned protesters that they were engaging in an “unlawful assembly” and would be arrested if they did not leave the park. According to the Washington Post‘s Joe Heim, the protesters have marched and evacuated to McIntyre Park. Some have been seen being taken away in vans. Despite this, alt-right leader Richard Spencer has told Heim that the rally isn’t being continued at an alternate location.

Jason Kessler, the organizer of the “Unite the Right” protest, has told reporters that he plans on suing the city. Speaking on Periscope, Kessler said prior to the event’s dispersal that the rally’s speakers, including Spencer, weren’t allowed to enter the speaking area to start the rally. Kessler also alleged that police weren’t stopping counter protesters from blocking the entrance to Emancipation Park.

While House Speaker Paul Ryan and First Lady Melania Trump have tweeted their condemnation of the “United the Right” protest, President Donald Trump tweeted his denouncement more than an hour after the states of emergency were declared. While Trump’s tweet said we must “condemn all that hate stands for,” he did not directly acknowledge the protest in Charlottesville.

Trump’s lack of specificity has left his tweet open to interpretation. Richard Spencer interpreted Trump’s remarks as a potential denouncement of Antifa, the extremist far-left protest group.

Trump did offer a follow-up tweet, declaring the events of the day in Charlottesville “sad!”

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*First Published: Aug 12, 2017, 1:09 pm CDT