Photos: Unite the Right Rally Turns Deadly - Charlottesville, VA
“GET IN THERE AND FIGHT!!!” yelled a white supremacist as I ducked behind a front line of alt-right “infantryman,” clutching homemade shields, wearing body armor, baseball helmets, and wielding wooden clubs at the main entrance into Emancipation Park yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia. A volley of water bottles careened through the air while eggs and purple paint bombs exploded nearby. As waves of America’s most notorious hate groups arrived yesterday morning at the park, for a rally in opposition to the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, they were met with hundreds of counter protestors blocking the street in front of steps giving entrance to the park at the corner of Second and E. Market Streets.
Shortly afterward, a white supremacist drove a car into a crowd of counter protestors, injuring many and killing 32 year-old Heather Heyer, leaving Charlottesville and all of America wondering what brought us to that point.
One giant man, with long dirty blonde hair and a greying goat tee, causally parted crowds on intimidation factor alone, leading groups of “infantrymen” who pushed forward from inside the park and in the intersection, meeting up with their arriving brothers to escort them back into the safety of the park. Protected by a small hill, a line of heavily armed militia men including Three-Percenters, connected via radio, lightweight barricades and a moderate police presence, the crowds gathered for the noon time lineup of speakers. Another man, with a fresh haircut, dressed in all black and wearing a Traditionalist Worker Party armband, commanded the white supremacists at the corner of the park when to charge forward.
Clashes often became bloody and opposing sides met in the intersection using chemical spray as a regular weapon and defense. About twenty police officers observed from Second Street while other law enforcement were placed in nearby areas. During the height of the chaos a woman holding a video camera next to me turned and said. “I think we’re on the wrong side."
But I was there because I was occupying high ground. After another wave of arriving racists collapsed back into the park, a counter protestor walked up the steps and was met by two punches from a man wearing a GoPro strapped around a backyards red hat, holding an anti-semitic sign. He took both punches and dared him to hit him again.
The same counter protestor would later attempt to commandeer a Vanguard America-Texas flag, a symbol incorporating authority in fascist Italy, from one of the day’s most visible characters. He would end up bloody during his scuffle with the alt-righter, dressed in blue dress clothes, terrorizing the opposing side with the flag pole and unbridled chaos, at times, using it as a lance and extra long baton.
Before the rally could officially start, law enforcement declared an unlawful gathering and slowly and methodically pushed the racists out of the park and back through hordes of counter protestors. Scattering in multiple directions past more clashes with counter protesters, one group retreated west down E. Market where they made one last bloody counter before disappearing into or out of the city, where one encounter proved deadly.
Photos and words by Sean Rayford
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