Washington, Aug 13 (IANS) Three people were killed and 19 others injured during a white nationalist rally in the US state of Virginia, turning a day of violent demonstrations into a tragedy, the media reported.
One person was killed after a car mowed down a group of protesters in the city of Charlottesville on Saturday while the two other victims, Virginia State Police Department officers, died when a helicopter crashed nearby, reports The Hill magazine.
The crash is being investigated and it remained unclear if it was connected to the protests.
The University of Virginia Health System said 20 people were hospitalised after the car ploughed into the group of people protesting near a popular pedestrian mall in the college town.
The events on Saturday took place after dozens of white nationalists carrying torches held a rally in Charlottesville on Friday, where they were seen using Nazi salutes.
They were protesting against the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe in declaring a state of emergency said he was “disgusted by the hatred, bigotry and violence these protesters have brought to our state over the past 24 hours”.
“Go home…You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you.”
The demonstrators defied the authorities’ attempt to restore order, throwing bottles at one another and using pepper spray in the city’s downtown area.
President Donald Trump condemned the violence, but did not specifically mention white nationalists, neo-Nazis, or their views, instead criticising hatred and violence “on many sides”, reports The Hill magazine.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides – on many sides,” he said, adding that the task now “is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives”.
However, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who was on the scene in Charlottesville, condemned the President’s statement, tweeting that “our people were peacefully assembling” but were attacked by “radical leftists”.
“So, after decades of White Americans being targeted for discriminated and anti-White hatred, we come together as a people, and you attack us?” he wrote.
In recent weeks, Charlottesville has been the scene of chaotic demonstrations by white nationalists and Ku Klux Klan groups upset over the planned removal of the Lee statue.
The city council voted to remove the statue earlier this year, but it remains in place in city’s Emancipation Square.
Dozens of Ku Klux Klan members demonstrated in the city last month, following a protest in May.