After last night’s torch-bearing, protestor-menacing prelude to today’s Unite the Right rally, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and neo-Confederates continued to swarm Charlottesville. Brawls have broken out as police continue to try to keep the peace. A state of emergency has officially been declared. And so far the President has stayed quiet, even as high-profile attendees, specifically David Duke, invoked his name by saying the demonstration “fulfills the promises of Donald Trump.”
The initial inspiration for the rally is the planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, agreed upon by Charlottesville leadership in April. Ironically, today’s demonstration is taking place in Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park. Attendees came in Nazi apparel, waving Confederate and Iron Cross flags, giving the Siegl Hiel Nazi salute, and shouting chants including “Jews will not replace us.” Businesses shut down in anticipation of unrest and in protest of Unite the Right. At first, police were trying to stay out of the fray and simply keep the peace. The ACLU of Virginia reported that the police stated “We’ll not intervene until given command to do so.”
However, Unite the Right quickly turned violent, with some attendees coming fully armed, militia-style. That prompted police to declare unlawful assembly and move in with tear gas and armored vehicles before it was even the official noon start time of the event. A state of emergency has been declared, allowing the riot police to step in. Governor McAuliffe tweeted a statement reading:
“It is now clear that public safety cannot be safeguarded without additional powers, and that the mostly out-of-state protestors have come to Virginia to endanger our citizens and property. I am disgusted by the hatred, bigotry and violence these protestors have brought to our state in the past 24 hours.”
The decision to declare unlawful assembly and a state of emergency came after last minute legal debate over Unite the Right’s permit, with the judge ultimately deciding that the group had the right to assemble under the First Amendment. However, once the fray turned violent, that overrided the group’s constitutional right to free speech. Mayor Mike Singer reminded all of those gathering that there is “no constitutional right to incite or promote violence by anyone who will be gathered this weekend.”
Earlier in the day, KKK Imperial Wizard and flunked Senate hopeful David Duke told reporters that Unite the Right “represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump. He said he is going to take our country back. And that’s what we are going to do.” The President has yet to respond to Duke’s endorsement, the state of emergency, or conditions of unrest.
UPDATE: Trump issued a quite vaguely worded tweet this afternoon, one devoid of the terms “Nazis,” “white nationalists,” “white supremacists,” etc.
Melania Trump also weighed in on Charlottesville encouraging peace.
Reports are now coming in that a vehicle driven by a Unite the Right attendee has driven into a crowd of protestors. Below is video of the incident. The driver is still at large.