Latest: One dead, 19 injured after car ploughs into peaceful marchers in Charlottesville

Update 9.26pm: One person has died and 19 others were injured after a car ploughed into a group of people marching against white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia today.

University of Virginia Medical Centre spokeswoman Angela Taylor confirmed the death, while the mayor of Charlottesville Michael Signer said via Twitter that he is "heartbroken" to announce that a "life has been lost".

Witnesses said a car ploughed into a crowd of people who were protesting against a rally held by white nationalists who oppose the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee by civic officials in Charlottesville.

A state official later said the male driver of a car is in police custody.

The city had been the scene of violent clashes between the nationalists and counter-protesters earlier.

Update 7.48pm: A car has ploughed into a group of people marching peacefully through Charlottesville as tensions rise during a white nationalist rally in the Virginian city.

At least one person was witnessed lying on the ground receiving medical treatment immediately after the incident, which occurred approximately two hours after violent clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters.

Several hundred protesters were marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them.

The demonstrations began on Friday in Charlottesville with white nationalists marching through town and while carrying lit torches. The demonstrators then clashed with counter-protesters.

Some of the white nationalists cited Mr Trump's election victory as a validation of their beliefs.

The White House was silent for hours about the clashes, except for a solitary tweet from US first lady Melania Trump.

Mrs Trump wrote: "Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let's communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence."

US President Donald Trump later tweeted that "we ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for".

He then wrote: "There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!"

Update 5.50pm: The governor of Virginia has declared a state of emergency in response to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville which is expected to draw up to 6,000 people.

Terry McAuliffe said on Twitter that the declaration had been made in order "to aid state response to violence" at the rally in the city, about 100 miles outside Washington, DC.

Clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters mark the latest confrontation in Charlottesville since it voted earlier this year to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee from a city centre park.

The city's mayor also declared a local emergency and police ordered people to disperse from the area around the statue after several violent clashes broke out.

Supporters of the rally were involved in fighting with counter-demonstrators, with water bottles hurled from both sides and chemical sprays being used.

Men dressed in military-style uniforms were also seen carrying rifles and shields in the area.

The clashes came after right-wing blogger Jason Kessler planned what he called a "pro-white" rally in protest over Charlottesville's decision to remove the statue.

There were also fights on Friday night, when hundreds of white nationalists marched through the University of Virginia campus carrying torches.

A university spokesman said one person had been arrested and several people were injured.

City officials declared a local emergency shortly after 11am (4pm Irish time).

The clashes mark the latest confrontation in Charlottesville since the city voted earlier this year to remove the statue of Lee from a park.

In May, a torch-wielding group that included prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer gathered around the statue for a night-time protest, and in July, about 50 members of a North Carolina-based KKK group travelled there for a rally, where they were met by hundreds of counter-protesters.

Mr 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".

He said in an interview: "This is about an anti-white climate within the Western world and the need for white people to have advocacy like other groups do."

Among those expected to attend the rally are 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 Centre, which track extremist groups, said the event has the potential to be the largest of its kind in at least a decade.

Officials have been preparing for the rally for months.

Virginia State Police will be assisting 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 the city centre, 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.

Charlottesville mayor Michael Signer said he was disappointed that the white nationalists had come to his town and blamed President Donald Trump for inflaming racial prejudices with his campaign last year.

He said: "I'm not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you're seeing in America today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president."

Charlottesville, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is a liberal-leaning city which is home to the flagship University of Virginia and Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.

The statue's removal is part of a broader city effort to change the way Charlottesville's history is told in public spaces.

The city has also renamed Lee Park, where the statue stands, and Jackson Park, named for Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. They are now called Emancipation Park and Justice Park, respectively.

For now, the Lee statue remains.

A group called the Monument Fund has filed a lawsuit arguing that removing the statue would violate a state law governing war memorials.

A judge has agreed to a temporary injunction that blocks the city from removing the statue for six months.

Earlier:

Clashes have taken place in Charlottesville, Virginia, as white nationalists faced protesters ahead of a rally in the city centre.

Supporters of a rally in protest over the city's decision to remove a Confederate monument from a local park have been involved in fighting with counter-demonstrators, with water bottles hurled from both sides and chemical sprays also being used.

Men dressed in military-style uniforms were seen carrying rifles and shields in the area.

The clashes came after right-wing blogger Jason Kessler planned what he called a "pro-white" rally in protest over Charlottesville's decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee from a city park.

Thousands of people are expected to pack the area.

There were also fights on Friday night, when hundreds of white nationalists marched through the University of Virginia campus carrying torches.

A university spokesman said one person had been arrested and several people were injured.


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