As crowds were beginning to disperse after Saturday’s rally of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and KKK members in Charlottesville, a car plunged into a crowd of peaceful counter-protesters near the downtown mall. One woman was killed, and 19 others in the street were injured. WMRA’s Marguerite Gallorini was there when it happened.
On Saturday, following scenes of clashes in downtown Charlottesville between alt-right protestors, and counter protestors made up of various leftist groups, the downtown mall had become quiet again. People were walking in the streets; a guitar player sang folk songs as police officers passed by, formed in a long line; two trumpet players were lifting up the mood; and even people dressed up as clowns, holding up signs reading “Shame,” and “Welcome Fool Convention.” In the downtown area, it was only mainly counter-protestors demonstrating now.
Then, people heard the loud noise of something hitting a speed bump, and tires screeching on the road.
[Car attacking the crowd]
Before long, people realized the car was intentionally driving into the counter-protestors’ crowd gathered in 4th Street, in the narrow stretch between East Main Street and Water Street East. The car appeared out of nowhere at about 40 miles per hour – in a street where cars usually go at 5 miles per hour. It got stopped when it hit two cars in 4th Street, and it then reversed back up the street – still at full speed.
[Woman describing the scene, in shock]
After about 10 minutes, the first signs of help arrived on the scene – a State Police military van and car, and ambulances on Water Street.
[Crowd and police sirens in 4th Street]
MICHAEL NIGRO: I saw the car come by, take the body of my camera off my phone, and hit me; and then plowed into the protestors, and ran over protestors, smashing the bottom – smash into two cars at the base of the hill, reverse it and ran over people again coming backwards. The amount of force that was up there, that could have caught that guy… Watch for that. Investigate that. And it took the police and the medics to get here forever, but the street medics were performing CPR immediately.
One person was killed in this attack, a 32-year-old woman. According to the Associated Press, 19 people were injured. The driver was taken into custody, and Police Chief Al Thomas declared they treated the case as a criminal homicide investigation.
Michael Nigro was critical of the alt-right, but also of the police:
You had, today, the Alt-Right that came armed to the teeth. With their AR15s, with their side arms, with metal poles, with baseball bats, with teargas, and pepper spray. The police let that happen. They let that go on. And when you were over at the Park, where the statue is… and to watch the police give way to let people attack each other, was one of the more bizarre things I’ve ever seen in a protest and I’ve been covering protests for years. They would come in and then give quarter. It was bizarre. This happened about an hour prior to this terrorist attack.
After last month’s KKK protest, several citizens had already come forward to complain to the City Council about the police’s handling of the event.