Fighting has broken out at a ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia between right-wing protesters demonstrating against the removal of a Confederate-era statue from Emancipation Park, and counter demonstrators.
The Unite the Right rally aims to “unify the right-wing against a totalitarian Communist crackdown” and “affirm the right of Southerners and white people to organize for their interests just like any other group is able to do.”
Police have declared a state of emergency in downtown Charlottesville, amid fears of escalating violence.
Saturday’s demonstration was organized by Jason Kessler, a former Daily Caller writer and activist, to protest against the removal of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park.
The park used to be named Lee Park, after the Confederate general, but Charlottesville City Council voted to change its name in June.
Authorities are on high alert after a protest at the University of Virginia on Friday night saw counter-protesters surrounded by so-called ‘alt-right’ demonstrators carrying torches.
Efforts to move the protest to McIntire Park were quashed when a judge ruled Friday that it could go ahead at Emancipation Park.
Protest organizer Kessler is described as a white nationalist by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
White nationalist and ‘alt-right’ speakers expected at the Unite the Right event include Richard Spencer, Mike Enoch and Augustus Invictus. According to Kessler, “speakers [are] not allowed to enter into speaking area.”
Meanwhile, Virginia House Democrats have released a statement condemning the rally.
“As the former mayor of this beautiful, inclusive and progressive community, I am saddened that our city may draw thousands who would come here to sow division and hate,” House Democratic Leader David Toscano said.
“The alt-right agenda has been brought to Charlottesville by people who are neither from our community nor who represent its values. We will strive to ensure the day does not erupt into violence, and we will redouble our efforts to remain civically engaged so that darkness does not obscure our light.”