CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBSNewYork/CBS News/AP) — One person was killed when a car plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters Saturday ahead of a planned white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The deadly crash happened just hours after Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency.READ MORE: Suspected Human Remains Found In Florida Wildlife Preserve Where Authorities Are Searching For Brian Laundrie
Mayor Mike Signer confirmed the fatality on Twitter.
“I am heartbroken that a life has been lost here,” Signer tweeted. “I urge all people of good will — go home.”
Charlottesville officials said a 32-year-old woman was killed while crossing the street and 19 people were injured when a car barreled through an intersection Saturday afternoon.
People ran for safety as the car sped away in reverse, CBS2’s Reena Roy reported. Others tended to the victims as they struggled on the sidewalk.
“To really realize that somebody possibly just died in front of us, and it was intentional — then see the shoes and the pools of blood on the ground and the debris — I’m still shaking from it right now, just thinking about it,” witness Joe Ziegler said.
At least 15 other people were hurt in the protests.
Charlottesville police identified the driver as 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr., of Ohio.
He was charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count of failing to stop at an accident that resulted in death.
Hours later, a Virginia State Police helicopter also crashed in the area, killing two people on board, officials said.
Police said Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-pilot Berke M.M. Bates were killed in the crash.
The Bell 407 helicopter crashed seven miles southwest of Charlottesville in Albermale County, the FAA confirmed to CBS News.
Police said the helicopter was assisting law enforcement officers monitoring the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.
“We saw the helicopter kind of go into a spinning, tumbling dive and it went down,” witness Ben Ward said.
Right-wing blogger Jason Kessler planned the “Unite the Right” rally, or what he called a “pro-white” rally, to protest Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a city park.
Rally supporters and counter-protesters screamed, chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other before the rally was set to kick off Saturday morning.
Men dressed in militia uniforms were seen carrying shields and openly carrying long guns.
“The ‘Unite the Right’ ralliers came here looking for battle. They came with weapons, they came with shields, they came with pepper spray and were looking for any opportunity to surround and attack people,” Ziegler said.
It’s the latest confrontation in Charlottesville since the city, about 100 miles outside of Washington, D.C., voted earlier this year to remove a statue of Lee from a downtown park.
In May, a torch-wielding group that included prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer gathered around the statue for a nighttime protest, and in July, about 50 members of a North Carolina-based KKK group traveled there for a rally, where they were met by hundreds of counter-protesters.
Kessler said this week that the rally is partly about the removal of Confederate symbols but also about free speech and “advocating for white people.”
“This is about an anti-white climate within the Western world and the need for white people to have advocacy like other groups do,” he said in an interview.READ MORE: New York City Mayoral Candidates Eric Adams, Curtis Sliwa Meet For First Debate
Police deemed the gathering unlawful late Saturday morning and told people to disperse or they would be arrested. Officers in riot gear deployed tear gas against the crowd shortly before 11:30 a.m.
Governor McAuliffe declared a state of emergency to aid the state’s response shortly before noon, when the rally was set to begin.
“I am disgusted by the hatred, bigotry and violence these protesters have brought to our state over the past 24 hours,” McAuliffe said in a statement. He said state troopers and the Virginia National Guard were providing support to local authorities.
The governor continued to condemn the violence during a press conference Saturday evening.
“I have a message to all the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today. Our message is plain and simple: Go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth.”
President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump took to Twitter to bemoan the outbreak of violence Saturday.
“We ALL must be united and condemn all that hate stands for,” the president said. “There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!”
“Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let’s communicate (without) hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence,” the first lady said.
Trump also spoke out from Bedminster, New Jersey later in the day.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” he said.
The Department of Homeland Security issued a statement, calling the clashes “violent extremism.”
“What we have seen today has no place in our society. DHS will continue to work closely with our state and local partners across the country to counter violent extremism in all forms,” the statement read in part.
Meanwhile, New Yorkers rallied in response. Hundreds of people gathered late Saturday afternoon in Union Square in a show of solidarity.
A Black Lives Matter group organized the impromptu rally, and many people carried signs denouncing the white supremacist groups in Charlottesville.
“The white supremacists have taken their hate, violence, and intolerance to the streets, but we will not be intimidated by domestic terrorism,”New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “We will continue to fight against the deep-seated racism that exists in our country wherever it appears.”
Between rally attendees and counter-protesters, authorities expected as many as 6,000 people, Charlottesville police said this week.
Among those expected to attend were Confederate heritage groups, KKK members, militia groups and “alt-right” activists, who generally espouse a mix of racism, white nationalism and populism.
Both the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which track extremist groups, said the event had the potential to be the largest of its kind in at least a decade.
Officials were preparing for the rally for months. Virginia State Police assisted local authorities, and a spokesman said the Virginia National Guard “will closely monitor the situation and will be able to rapidly respond and provide additional assistance if needed.”
Police instituted road closures around downtown, and many businesses in the popular open-air shopping mall opted to close for the day.
Both local hospitals said they had taken precautions to prepare for an influx of patients and had extra staff on call.
CBS News reported there was also violence Friday night as a large crowd of white nationalists marched through the University of Virginia’s campus carrying tiki torches and chanting “you will not replace us.”
Friday’s march began around 10 p.m. at an intramural field, and the crowd proceeded to a statue of President Thomas Jefferson on the UVA campus.
Jefferson founded the university in 1819.
Dozens alt-right activists, white nationalists and neo-Confederates chanted “white lives matter” as they faced off against counter-protesters at the statue, CBS affiliate WTVR-TV reports.MORE NEWS: Mayor De Blasio Announces Vaccine Mandate For All New York City Municipal Workers, Including First Responders
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)