Washington, Aug 13 (PTI) A car rammed into a crowd marching against a white supremacist rally in the US state of Virginia, killing a woman and injuring 19 others, while two police officers monitoring the demonstration died following a helicopter crash near the protest site.
The deaths came at the end of a day marked by clashes between far-right nationalists and people who had come to protest against the occupation of a park in Charlottesville housing a statue of the Confederate general Robert E Lee.
A 32-year-old woman died after the car rammed into the crowd holding peaceful protests.
20-year-old James Fields, of Ohio, the driver of the car, has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder. The cause of the crash remains under investigation, the police said in a statement.
Two Virginia State Patrol troopers were also killed in a helicopter crash while “assisting public safety resources with the ongoing situation in Charlottesville.
In addition to the one death and 19 injuries in the car- ramming incident, the city said there were at least 15 other injuries associated with the scheduled rally by white supremacists against the planned removal of the statue.
Following the clashes, a state of emergency was declared by the authorities, and police and security forces were deployed in riot gears.
City Mayor Mike Singer authorised police to impose curfew in this town, where many Indian-Americans also live.
The city has a population of about 50,000, according to 2010 census.
The University of Virginia campus has a significant number of Indian students.
President Donald Trump described the violence as a terrible event.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” Trump told reporters at a news conference at his gold resort in New Jersey where he is currently on a working summer vacation.
“It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, this has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America. What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives,” he said.
“No citizen should ever fear for their safety and security in our society. And no child should ever be afraid to go outside and play or be with their parents and have a good time,” he said.
Trump said he spoke to Virginia Governor Terry Mcauliffe.
“We agree that the hate and the division must stop, and must stop right now,” he said as hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members gathered in Charlottesville which they described as one of their biggest rallies in decades.
They clashed with another group of people who were opposing this rally of white nationalists.
“The President said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred. Of course that includes white supremacists, KKK Neo- Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.” a White House spokesperson said.
According to local media reports, demonstrators shouted and threw bottles at the opposing groups.
“I am heartbroken that a life has been lost here. I urge all people of good will go home,” said Charlottesville Mayor Mike Singer.
Indian-American Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, called on Trump to “denounce what happened this weekend and the white supremacist hate behind it”.
She demanded the FBI open an investigation into the violence.
Virginia Senator Mark R Warner said, “We condemn the intolerance behind it and those who would pass it off as a legitimate political movement”.
“Violent acts of hate and bigotry have no place in America. The attacks we are witnessing in Charlottesville are completely unacceptable and must not be allowed to continue.
“Violence like this will solve nothing and will only beget more violence and sow more division,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein.
The Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez said the demonstrations by white supremacists this weekend have no place in the US.
“This vile display of racism is an attack on our democracy and an affront to humanity,” he said.
“America is no place for bigots. And to be silent in the face of their hatred is to condone it. That’s why it is on all of us to stand up to these reprehensible acts and speak out against white supremacy. We cannot allow a group of cowards instill fear in our communities,” Perez said.
Indian-American Congressman from Illinois Raja Krishnamoorthi urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to devote all necessary resources to combat the threats posed by white supremacists and other hate groups.
“Generations of Americans have lived up to their responsibility of confronting white supremacy and racial hatred, and ours must do the same,” he said.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.