Here's what happened in Charlottesville

Here's what happened in Charlottesville

You've probably heard a lot of the row surrounding Trumps remarks about violence at a rally in Virginia. Here's what went down


White nationalists carry torches on the grounds of the University of Virginia, on the eve of a planned Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville
Photo: Reuters

So a long time ago America had a civil war. One side, the Unionists, wanted to abolish slavery. The other side, the Confederates didn't. They battled each other and the Unionists won. The commander of the victorious Unionist side was Ulysses Grant who is hailed as a hero. The commander of the losing Confederate side was Robert E Lee who some people still think was a hero, but other people think was a traitor.

In Charlottesville Virginia, there is a statue of Lee in a park called Lee Park. Virginia was on the side of the confederation and Lee was a Virginian. The statue has been there since 1924.

Who was Robert E. Lee and what does he have to do with the Charlottesville violence?

In April this year, the city council decided to rename the park, Emancipation Park, and to sell the statue of Lee for it to be removed. The battle then moved to court, where a judge placed a hold on the sale of the statue for six months.

Jason Kessler organised a "Unite the right" rally to take place in Emancipation Park. for Saturday. But the city decided to move it to McIntire Park. On Thursday Kessler filed a lawsuit and the following day the march venue was changed back to Emancipation Park.

A white nationalist wears body armor, carries combat weapons and wears military clothing at the march on Saturday.
Photo: Agence France Presse

On the Friday night, hundreds of white nationalists bearing lit torches marched through the campus of the University of Virginia. Some of them were supporters of extremist organisations, such as the Ku Klux Klan and neo-nazis. They were chanting slogans among which were “White lives matter!” “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!” 

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The next morning groups of protesters and counter-protesters started arriving at the park long before the scheduled start time of the march. Shortly after noon violence broke out between the two groups. The march was called off and Virginian governor Terry McAuliff declared a state of emergency. Police cleared the park but there were still clashes going on in side streets.

Heather Heyer
Photo: Reuters

Around 1pm US President Donald Trump tweets "We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. Lets come together as one". Vice President Mike Pence added a tweet urging people to "join together & oppose those seeking to divide us.”

Then a car rammed into a group of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 other people, some of them critically.

James Fileds was arrested on suspicion of murder following the ramming.

Trump held a press conference from his holiday in New Jersey saying the blame for what happened in Charlottesville lay on on "many sides". His failure to outright condemn the white extremists shocked many people. Three business leaders quit his advisory panel in protest.

James Alex Fields Jr

Under pressure from just about everyone to issue a stronger statement, Trump on Monday explicitly denounced the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists and neo-Nazis as “repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans” and said “justice will be delivered” to those responsible.

Reading from a prepared text, Trump said, “Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.”


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