On Saturday, August 12, 2017, a “Unite the Right” rally was planned to protest the removal of a statue of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The rally was planned by Jason Kessler. Kessler said of the event: “We’re trying to do a pro-white demonstration.”
Some attendees avow that they were there only to defend the statue of Lee, whereas some were neo-Nazis, members of the KKK, and other white supremacist groups.
Demonstrators to counter-protest the rally also were present. A network of activists in Charlottesville called Solidarity Cville organized the counter-protest and warned their supporters that there was a risk of violence at the rally.
The night before the rally, protesters marched around the University of Virginia campus shouting racist chants whilst bearing torches.
The next day, the “Unite the Right” protesters and the counter-protesters engaged in verbal and physical violence.
Of the counter-protesters, anti-fascist groups, also referred to as “Antifa,” were violently confronting the neo-Nazis and white supremacists at the rally.
James Alex Fields Jr., an attendee of the “Unite the Right” rally, drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. He then reversed, knocking more people down. The 20-year-old proceeded to drive away and flee the scene.
Fields hit and killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer in the incident, injuring dozens more. He has been charged with second-degree murder, one count of hit-and-run, and three counts of malicious wounding.
Additionally, two Virginia State Police died in a helicopter crash while patrolling the rally. The troopers were Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, 48 and 40, respectively.
As a result of the tragedies that took place in Charlottesville, the FBI has launched its own investigation into the actions that stemmed from “racial bigotry and hatred,” according to U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.
Major political figures and American citizens alike have since spoken out to condemn the violence that took place in Charlottesville.