Protesters clash in Virginia city on eve
of white nationalist rally
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[August 12, 2017]
By Ian Simpson
(Reuters) - Hundreds of white marchers with
blazing torches clashed briefly with counterprotesters on the
Charlottesville campus of the University of Virginia on Friday, the eve
of a rally planned by thousands of white nationalists, media said.
The events highlight a persistent debate in the U.S. South over the
display of the Confederate battle flag and other symbols of the rebel
side in the Civil War, fought over the issue of slavery.
The marchers chanted as made their way from Nameless Field through the
sprawling campus to the school's Thomas Jefferson statue, where they
were met by counterprotesters, an affiliate of NBC news said.
Both groups threw punches and pushed each other as police arrived to
break up the clash. A chemical irritant was sprayed into the crowd,
At least one person was arrested and several on campus were treated for
minor injuries, the Daily Progress newspaper said.
"I am beyond disgusted by this unsanctioned and despicable display of
visual intimidation on a college campus," Mayor Mike Singer said in a
The clash came the night before an estimated 2,000 to 6,000 people were
to attend a Unite the Right rally to protest the removal of a statue of
Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a public park on Saturday.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has said extremist groups have
threatened to try and attack rally participants, to express opposition
to the statue's removal.
The National Guard is on standby, with Virginia State Police
coordinating security in the city of 45,000, the governor said in a
"I want to urge my fellow Virginians, who may consider joining, either
in support or opposition to the planned rally, to make alternative
plans," McAuliffe said.
The rally also aimed to protest against Charlottesville's decision to
rename downtown Lee Park, now called Emancipation Park, besides the
[to top of second column]
White nationalists carry torches on the grounds of the University of
Virginia, on the eve of a planned Unite The Right rally in
Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. August 11, 2017. Alejandro
Alvarez/News2Share via REUTERS
Supporters call such statues racially insensitive, while opponents
say Confederate symbols honor Southern heritage, and calls to remove
them reflect "empty political correctness."
Lee was a symbol for white people threatened by immigration and
"ethnic cleansing," rally organizer and freelance journalist Jason
Kessler said in an interview with Pennsylvania's WHLM radio on
City officials had planned to move the event to a larger park beyond
downtown, citing safety concerns at the 1-acre (0.4 hectare)
Kessler sued the city, and on Friday night a federal court sided
with him. In a subsequent posting on social network Twitter, Kessler
said the rally would be held at the downtown park.
Mimi Arbeit, an organizer of the planned counter-protests, rejected
Kessler's argument that the rally was about freedom of speech.
"Fascism functions by using the institutions of a democracy towards
its own ends," she said by telephone.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; additional reporting by
Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Brendan O'Brien in
Milwaukee; Editing by Frank McGurty and Clarence Fernandez)
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