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Charlottesville Tries To Pick Up Pieces After Day Of Deadly Unrest

23 hours ago
Originally published on August 13, 2017 5:18 pm

Updated at 3:15 p.m. ET

A day after a rally of white nationalists turned violent in Charlottesville, Va., Gov. Terry McAuliffe said there is "no place" for such hateful people in the United States as he called on President Trump to more strongly condemn the perpetrators.

"To the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who came to our beautiful state yesterday, there is no place for you here in Charlottesville and there is no place for you in the United States of America," McAuliffe said to applause, addressing the predominately African-American congregation at the Mount Zion First African Baptist Church.

Virginia police and the FBI were investigating Saturday's deadly violence, which included a car ramming into a march of counterprotesters and killing a 32-year-old woman. In addition, two Virginia state troopers en route to the scene were killed when their helicopter crashed, police said.

McAuliffe had declared a state of emergency Saturday following the unrest.

Sandy Hausman, a reporter with member station WVTF, says that at the church where the governor spoke on Sunday, there was "incredible sadness."

"Several people just didn't even want to talk," she tells Weekend Edition Sunday, adding that some people said they almost wished the governor wasn't there because they just needed time to grieve and to process what had happened."

On Saturday, Trump responded to the violence, condemning "in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides."

"It's been going on for a long time in our country," the president said. "Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time."

But McAuliffe echoed what many, Democrats and Republicans alike, have said about the president's response — that it fell short of what is needed to calm the situation and begin the healing process.

The Democratic governor, speaking at First Baptist West Main, said Trump "needs to come out stronger" against white supremacists.

"[They] are Nazis and they are here to hurt American citizens, and he needs to call them out for what they are, no question," he said.

Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer, also a Democrat, said he "took special note" that in the president's comments, "you didn't hear those words 'white supremacy,' you didn't hear any specific reckoning with what white nationalism really is."

Signer spoke with Weekend All Things Considered on Sunday. He called Friday night's torchlight rally of white nationalists "tantamount to terrorism" and a "display that was clearly meant to intimidate and terrorize."

"Look, I think anyone who watched the presidential campaign saw an invitation to these forces that call themselves 'alt-right' to really come into a mainstream presidential campaign. And that was a choice," he said.

"[This] invitation of bigotry, hatred, racism, anti-Semitism, into the mainstream American civil society — it's time for this to stop," Signer tells NPR's Stacey Vanek Smith. "This is hopefully a turning point for the end of this movement."

On Sunday, the White House sought to clarify Trump's earlier remarks, releasing a statement that the president "condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred, and of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi, and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together."

Saturday's "Unite the Right" rally promised to "take America back," by demonstrating against the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a local park.

For hours on Saturday, the white nationalists — some helmeted and carrying shields and Confederate flags — clashed with counterprotesters, some wearing "Black Lives Matter" T-shirts. Hundreds of people threw punches and beat one another with sticks, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical spray, according to The Associated Press.

During a march by counterprotesters on Saturday afternoon, a car sped through the crowd, mowing down people and killing one woman. She was identified by police as 32-year-old Heather Heyer of Charlottesville.

The impact threw people into the air. Nineteen people were injured. James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old who had moved to Ohio from Kentucky, was taken into custody and has been charged with second-degree murder.

The AP, which spoke to the suspect's mother, quotes her as saying that she didn't know her son was going to a white supremacist rally.

"I thought it had something to do with Trump. Trump's not a white supremacist," Samantha Bloom told the AP. The news agency says Bloom became visibly upset as she learned of the injuries and deaths at the rally.

Late Saturday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said federal authorities will pursue a civil rights investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash.

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