Charlottesville. — A car rammed into a crowd of protesters and a state police helicopter crashed into the woods on Saturday as tension boiled over at a white supremacist rally.
The violent day left three dead, dozens injured and this usually quiet college town a bloodied symbol of the nation’s roiling racial and political divisions.
The chaos erupted around what is believed to be the largest group of white nationalists to come together in a decade — including neo-Nazis, skinheads, members of the Ku Klux Klan — who descended on the city to “take America back” by rallying against plans to remove a Confederate statue. Hundreds came to protest against the racism.
There were street brawls and violent clashes; the governor declared a state of emergency, police in riot gear ordered people out and helicopters circled overhead.
Peaceful protesters were marching downtown, carrying signs that read “black lives matter” and “love.”
A silver Dodge Challenger suddenly came barreling through “a sea of people” and smashed into another car, said Matt Korbon, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student. The impact hurled people into the air and blew off their shoes.
Heather Heyer (32) was killed as she crossed the street. “It was a wave of people flying at me,” said Sam Becker (240 sitting in the emergency room to be treated for leg and hand injuries.
Those left standing scattered, screaming and running for safety. Video caught the car reversing, hitting more people, its windshield splintered from the collision and bumper dragging on the pavement.
Medics carried the injured, bloodied and crying, away as a police tank rolled down the street.
The driver, James Alex Fields Jr, a 20-year-old who recently moved to Ohio from where he grew up in Kentucky, was charged with second-degree murder and other counts. — Agencies.