Charlottesville, Va. - The white nationalist Unite the Right rally in my home town was dispersed after Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency in the wake of violent clashes between the neo-nazis, white supremacists, and other assorted alt-righters and Black Lives Matter, anti-fascist, and other counter-protesters. The white nationalists were attracted to Charlottesville as protest site after the city council's vote to sell memorial statues of confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
Earlier this week, the city government revoked the permit for the rally to take place in the newly renamed Emancipation Park where the Lee statue stands. The city issued another permit for the rally at the larger McIntire park which is about one mile away from downtown. The rally organizers backed by the American Civil Liberties Union sued and the federal court district ruled that the rally could take place in the downtown park.
Last night, the alt-righters marched with tiki torches through the grounds of the University of Virginia reportedly shouting ""You will not replace us!," "Blood and soil!," and "Jews will not replace us!" Shouting the last slogan while standing in front of the statue of Thomas Jefferson created by Virginia Jewish scupltor and confederate VMI combatant Moses Ezekiel is a bit ironic.
Some of the alt-righters came attired in militia regalia carrying clubs and shields. The clubs were used to bash some counter-protesters before the rally could even get started, prompting the governor's declaration that the rally had become an unlawful assembly. I was not close enough to see that fight, but I did watch as perhaps a 500 Unite the Righters carrying confederate and nazi banners dispersed from the closed park by marching down Market Street. Counter-protesters shouting for them go away let them past for the most part unmolested. White nationalist Richard Spencer with a phalanx of Proud Boys* brought up the rear, clearly reveling in the chaos the rally had caused.
After the alt-righters marched away, many apparently put down their banners and are now mingling with residents and counter-protesters around downtown. Naturally, there are rumors that the alt-righters are planning to regroup for further protests and mayhem.
Now the bad news: Apparently two people are being treated for injuries from the earlier fight and a car has hit and injured some folks on the downtown mall (where I was standing not an hour ago). I am going to head back out to see what else may be happening.
For more background, here is what I think about how confederate monuments and memorials should be handled: Old Times There Are Best Forgotten.
Update: It is very sad to report that at least one person has died from the car ramming on the downtown Mall.
Update: In televised remarks, President Donald Trump said: "We're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides."
It worth noting that many of the white nationalists gathered here think rightly or wrongly that Trump is on their side. Former KKKer David Duke who is in Charlottesville for the rally declared, "We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That's what we believed in, that's why we voted for Donald Trump." In response to Trump's earlier tweet in which the president condemned "hate" and violence," Duke tweeted, "I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists."
*Correction: Apparently my observations and the inferences I made with regard to the regalia worn by the guys surrounding Spencer were wrong. Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes informs me in colorful language that the group was not participating in the rally in any official capacity. It is nevertheless worth noting that the chief organizer of the Unite the Right rally in my town is Jason Kessler who claims to be a member of the Proud Boys. I regret any errors in my reporting with regard to the participation of Proud Boys in the Unite the Right fiasco today in Charlottesville.