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White Supremacist Protest In Virginia Leaves One Dead


We're going to start the hour in Charlottesville, Va., where at least one person was killed after a car plowed into a crowd of people who had left an anti-racism demonstration. The incident happened just hours after violent clashes erupted between white nationalists and counter-protesters. The events were sparked by the city's plan to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Two more people were killed in a helicopter crash that authorities say was linked to the protest. The governor of Virginia has declared a state of emergency. And in a press conference, President Trump decried what he called terrible events.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides - it's been going on for a long time in our country.

SMITH: We're joined now by Sandy Hausman, the Charlottesville bureau chief of member station WVTF and Radio IQ. She's in Charlottesville.

Hi, Sandy.


SMITH: Sandy, Charlottesville's mayor says one person has died in today's violence. What more can you tell us about this car that plowed into protesters?

HAUSMAN: Well, Stacey, I didn't actually see it, but I did speak with an eyewitness - John Nigro. He's a cameraman from Brooklyn. And he told me he was actually hit by the car.

JOHN NIGRO: I saw the car come by, take the body of my camera off my phone and hit me and then plowed into the protesters and ran over protesters, smashed into the bottom - smashed into two cars at the base of the hill, reverse it and then ran over people again coming backwards. The street medics were performing CPR immediately. They were also trying to stop bleeding. I saw a number of head wounds and broken bones.

HAUSMAN: There are reports the car has been found, and the drivers in custody.

SMITH: Now, this crash came just hours after clashes in downtown Charlottesville. What were those clashes about?

HAUSMAN: Charlottesville City Council had voted some months ago to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a downtown park. And opponents sued to stop them, and the whole matter's now tied up in court. But Southern heritage activists and white nationalists wanted to show, among other things, their support for keeping that statue.

SMITH: Now, the governor of Virginia has declared a state of emergency. Practically speaking, what does that mean?

HAUSMAN: That announcement enables the National Guard, which has been on standby, to come to Charlottesville and help state and local police. And they might frankly be needed tonight when protesters could again clash on the city's popular downtown mall. About 200 businesses around town have announced they're going to close, but some, including the city's best-known gay bar, intend to stay open as a protest against hate. Todd Howard's the owner of Escafe.

TODD HOWARD: We know that this is not the image of Charlottesville we want to, you know, purvey. We know what kind of town we have, and it's a positive town.

HAUSMAN: He adds that his business and others have a shelter in place plan. And if violence erupts tonight, they're ready. Meanwhile, the city's mayor, Mike Signer, says he's heartbroken, and he's urging people to go home.

SMITH: That was Sandy Hausman of member station WVTF and Radio IQ in Charlottesville. Thank you, Sandy.

HAUSMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.