Rescue workers assist people who were injured when a car drove through a group of people in Charlottesville. Photograph: Joshua Roberts/Reuters
The Republican senator Marco Rubio tweeted that it was important for Trump to describe the events as a “terror attack by #white_supremacists”.
The car attack came about two hours after state police in riot gear had cleared Emancipation Park, the site of the Robert E Lee statue. The city’s decision in February to remove the statue drew earlier protests by the " #alt-right ” and the #Ku_Klux_Klan.
[Car drives into crowd in #Charlottesville, #Virginia – video / oAnth: vois dans l’article]
Rescue personnel help injured people after a car ran into a large group. Photograph: Steve Helber/AP
At about 11.40am ET, after almost an hour of missile exchanges, gas attacks and intermittent face-to-face melees, police cleared the park with riot troops. The far-right groups were largely compliant, but they were forced to run the gauntlet of counter-protesters as they walked west along Market Street.
One of the speakers, the far-right figurehead #Richard_Spencer, said he had been maced on the way into the park and lashed out at police and city authorities.
“Never in my life have I felt like the government was cracking down on me until today,” said Spencer, who was flush-faced. “We came in peace and we were effectively thrown to the wolves.”
He said that “militarized police”, whom he compared to “stormtroopers”, “did not protect us, they funneled us towards the #antifa ... I am a citizen of the USA”.
He said that they would not back down from protesting against the statue. When he mentioned Mayor Signer by name, the crowd chanted “Jew! Jew! Jew!”
Around the park, members of the far right were nursing and treating minor wounds. One of them, who declined to give his name, was bleeding from the head, and claimed to have been struck with an iron bar. Another young man, with a swastika tattoo on his chest and blood on his forehead, told photographers: “If you take my picture, I’ll cut you. I’m not even kidding.”
The meeting abruptly broke up just before 2pm, with some of the departing far-right demonstrators saying that counter-protesters were coming.
The local rightwing activist and former Daily Caller writer Jason Kessler had organized the event, planned to involve speeches from leading far right ideologues including Spencer, the podcaster Mike Peinovich, AKA “Mike Enoch”, and Matthew Heimbach, leader of the Traditionalist Workers party.
Throughout the morning leading up to the clearing of Emancipation Park, massed contingents from neo-Confederate and neofascist groups such as the League of the South, the National Socialist Movement, and the Traditionalist Workers party had made their way along Market Street towards the park’s entrances.
Just before 11am, a formation of about 200 people were briefly halted by protesters before moving towards the south-east gate. One of their number was seen to mace a young woman who approached the group. By the time they made it in, there were well over 500 far-right protesters in the park, with about 1,000 counter-protesters in the street.
This parade was watched over by Virginia state police, Charlottesville police officers, and armed “Three Percent” #militia members, who were dressed in fatigues and open-carrying rifles.
Offering explicitly fascist chants like “You will not replace us” and “Blood and soil”, they had been met by counter-protesters seeking to prevent their entrance to the park. Some counter-protesters, including many marching under red and black antifascist banners, sought to block the streets. This led to altercations with far-right groups, who were seen using chemical weapons, sticks and shields on their opponents.
Steve Thomas, from Lynchburg, Virginia, had been a prominent participant in the counter-protest, frequently remonstrating with the protesters. “I think that what we are witnessing here has always been simmering beneath the surface, and now has been emboldened and enabled by the #Trump administration’s politics and rhetoric,” he said.
On Friday night, a torchlight parade of hundreds of far right marchers entered the UVA campus, and set upon a much smaller group of counter protesters who were surrounding a statue of Thomas Jefferson.