State of emergency amid fight at far-right rally
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The Governor of Virginia has declared a state of emergency after mass brawls broke out between white supremacists and anti-Nazi activists in Charlottesville.
The fighting prompted Charlottesville city manager Maurice Jones and interim county executive Doug Walker to simultaneously declare local states of emergency for the two jurisdictions.
The city hall then declared a rally that had led to large numbers of far-right activists gathering an “unlawful assemblage” as police struggled to manage the two groups.
Up to 6,000 white nationalists had been expected to attend the “Unite the Right” rally.
At least two people have been hurt in clashes so far, police said, with injuries described as serious but not life-threatening.
TV pictures showed one of the fights erupting when the anti-Nazi protesters approached the white supremacists with what looked like a wooden banner.
As they did so, they were met by a wall of men dressed in body armour and helmets, some of whom used pepper spray, police said.
Kicking and punching is seen as the two sides scream at each other, before retreating.
Other footage showed rivals on either side using hand-made shields as they fought each other.
Earlier, the anti-Nazi group were heard chanting obscenities as the two groups approached.
Initially it appeared as though police were not getting involved but the the Virginia State Police have since posted pictures of heavily armed officers carrying out arrests.
The clashes came after a federal judge ordered Charlottesville authorities to allow a weekend rally of white nationalists and other extremists to take place.
The rally was organised to protest against Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from the city’s Emancipation Park.
Right-wing blogger Jason Kessler filed a lawsuit demanding the right to hold a protest at the spot.
The city said earlier this week that the rally must be moved out of Emancipation Park to a larger one, because of safety concerns.
The Southern Poverty Law Center said it was expecting a range of far-right groups to attend including the National Socialist Movement, the League of the South, as well as “various anti-government, Patriot, militia, Klan, III Percenters and anti-immigration groups”.
US District Judge Glen Conrad granted a preliminary injunction on Friday allowing the rally in the park.
The state of emergency allows local officials to request additional resources if needed to respond to ongoing events, authorities said.
Some commentators have described how many far-right activists in the US regard Charlottesville as a test case, because of what they see as an attack on parts of their history.
Two organisations that track extremist groups said the rally has the potential to be the largest of its kind in at least a decade.