LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
On screens around the country and the world, people saw an America yesterday where extremists and racists felt no need to hide behind masks or hoods. The event was billed as a protest against plans to remove a Confederate monument in Charlottesville, Va. But at the end of a violent day, three people were dead. In the most shocking incident, a car allegedly driven by a white supremacist mowed down a group of counter-protesters. One woman was killed, and 19 other people were injured in that incident. From member station WVTF, Sandy Hausman reports.
SANDY HAUSMAN, BYLINE: About 500 white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other extremists gathered in a downtown park well before the rally was scheduled to begin. People who opposed them surrounded the park with their own hostile chants.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) Nazi scum, off our streets.
HAUSMAN: Fights broke out between the two groups, with people swinging sticks and fists. Police used tear gas. And shortly before noon, the governor declared a state of emergency. The crowd was moved away from the statue of Robert E. Lee to a larger park, over the objections of alt-right leader Richard Spencer.
RICHARD SPENCER: This is an absolute outrage. You're going to have to drag us out of here. We have a lawful permit. We are peacefully demonstrating.
HAUSMAN: Afterward, as people left that rally, a car crashed into a group of counter-protesters. The injured were scattered along the road, bleeding. The driver was later arrested and charged with murder. Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer said he was heartbroken. Governor Terry McAuliffe delivered a harsh scolding to the white supremacists who had come to town with Confederate flags and guns.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
TERRY MCAULIFFE: Go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you. You pretend that you're patriots, which - you are anything but a patriot.
HAUSMAN: McAuliffe praised local and state police along with National Guardsmen assigned to keep the peace. But a number of people, including local lawyer Jeff Fogel, complained that law enforcement had done little to stop fighting in the streets.
JEFF FOGEL: In fact, one of the state police almost got hit with a bottle of water that was being thrown. I was wondering, if it hit him, would he have done something then? But it was amazing to me that there was no police presence on Market Street at all. And, of course, the people who were on Market Street were, for the most part, people who were the counter-protesters.
HAUSMAN: One of those counter-protesters was 21-year-old Montae Taylor (ph), who came from Virginia Beach to oppose the white supremacists. He recalled his grandmother's stories of integrating Virginia public schools more than 50 years ago - how she was spit on and cursed by whites in the community.
MONTAE TAYLOR: And to see that again - and that same hatred - is not surprising because I never thought that it went anywhere. But it is upsetting that this is where we are.
HAUSMAN: And Charlottesville resident Kathleen Quinn (ph) expressed deep sorrow over what had happened.
KATHLEEN QUINN: I guess I blame the tone in our country today. I just - I can't imagine this kind of thing would have happened a year ago. And now it seems like this kind of hateful speech and rhetoric - and people are suddenly proud of being racists and white supremacists. And I wish they were back in hiding like they were a year ago.
HAUSMAN: Also in mourning today - the state police. One of their helicopters, which had flown above the protest, crashed in a wooded area nearby, killing both officers on board. For NPR News, I'm Sandy Hausman in Charlottesville. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.