Shouting chants like “You will not replace us” and “Blood and soil” -- a direct Nazi reference, hundreds of white nationalists descended upon Charlottesville, Virginia, on both Friday and Saturday. Gathered for “Unite the Right," one of the largest far-right gatherings in the U.S. in at least a decade, white nationalist erupted with violence after being met with counter-protestors.
Downtown Charlottesville was flooded by mostly men dressed in khakis, white polos, and a variety of combat gear Saturday morning. Some men dressed in militia uniforms carried shields and openly carried long guns.
Thousands were expected to gather in Emancipation Park, previously named Robert E. Lee, where barricades have been placed around a statue of the Confederate general. But before the so-called alt-right rally even began, violence erupted between bands of white supremacists and counterprotesters, including anti-fascists and local interfaith leaders.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe placed the National Guard on standby but, according to the Washington Post, they were not in the area where the morning clashes occurred. Violence was met on both sides, causing a declaration of a “local emergency” by the Charlottesville Police Department.
Before the rally, Charlottesville City Manager Maurice Jones told CNN that approximately 1,000 law enforcement officers and first responders, including the largest deployment by Virginia State Police in 30 years would be on site.
There were also fights Friday night when hundreds of white nationalists marched through the University of Virginia campus carrying torches.
In a statement posted to Facebook on Friday night, Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer called the torch march “a cowardly parade of hatred, bigotry, racism” and a "despicable display of visual intimidation on a college campus.”