A 20-year-old man was charged with second-degree murder after he allegedly plowed into a pool of people in the college town of Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday afternoon, killing one person and injuring several others in the aftermath of a white nationalist rally that turned violent before it was scheduled to start.
James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Maumee, Ohio, was also charged with three counts of malicious wounding and one count related to leaving the scene, the Associated Press reported.
In videos posted on Twitter, a car sped into the crowd, flinging people in the air and smashing into the rear-end of one car, which rear-ended another. The driver then pulled away, speeding in reverse. Police apprehended the driver later in the afternoon.
Later, a Virginia State Police helicopter crashed near Charlottesville, killing Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Berke M. M. Bates, 40, state police confirmed.
“Unite the Right” was scheduled for noon by people protesting the city’s decision to remove an equestrian statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park. But at least an hour earlier, hundreds of neo-Nazis, alt-right activists, pro-Confederacy groups, people who oppose them and police had started shoving or punching each other, throwing objects and spraying chemicals.
— Mykal McEldowney (@mykalmphoto) August 12, 2017
At 11:06 a.m., Albermarle County declared a local state of emergency. Charlottesville soon tweeted, “Unlawful assembly declared for rally at Emancipation Park,” and the Virginia State Police added that arrests were being made.
Soon after, Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency. While law enforcement cleared out the park, pools of people were still scattered around the area – the hit-and-run happened about a third of a mile away, according to NPR.
Friday night set the tone for Saturday, starting after a federal judge forced the city to accommodate Saturday’s rally after it had initially announced that organizers had to move it to another park.
U.S. District Judge Glen Conrad granted a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed by right-wing blogger Jason Kessler, who organized “Unite the Right,” according to the Associated Press. The city said in response that it would accommodate the rally.
Hundreds of people marched with torches through the University of Virginia’s campus after the judge’s decision on Friday night, holding up their right arms and chanting, “White lives matter” and “You will not replace us,” according to CNN.
In a Facebook post, Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer wrote, “I am beyond disgusted by this unsanctioned and despicable display of visual intimidation on a college campus.”
Members of the Ku Klux Klan staged a similar protest one month ago that ended in the arrest of 23 people.
Police in riot gear on Saturday afternoon were still sweeping the streets, telling everyone they had to clear.
President Donald Trump said at a press conference around 3:30 p.m., “We condemn in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”
Trump did not mention the crash or a specific group.