CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A car plowed into a crowd of people peacefully protesting a white nationalist rally Saturday in a Virginia college town, killing one person, hurting more than a dozen others and ratcheting up tension in a day full of violent confrontations.
Shortly after, a Virginia State Police helicopter that officials said was assisting with the rally crashed outside Charlottesville, killing the pilot and a trooper.
The chaos boiled over at what is believed to be the largest group of white nationalists to come together in a decade: the governor declared a state of emergency, police dressed in riot gear ordered people out and helicopters circled overhead. The group had gathered to protest plans to remove a statue of the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, and others who arrived to protest the racism.
Matt Korbon, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, said several hundred counter-protesters were marching when "suddenly there was just this tire screeching sound." A silver Dodge Challenger smashed into another car, then backed up, barreling through "a sea of people."
The impact hurled people into the air. Those left standing scattered, screaming and running for safety in different directions.
The driver was later arrested, authorities said.
The turbulence began Friday night, when the white nationalists carried torches though the University of Virginia campus. It quickly spiraled into violence Saturday morning. Hundreds of people threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays. At least one person was arrested in connection.
City officials said the car collision left 19 people injured and said they treated 35 patients altogether.
State Police said in a statement that the helicopter was "assisting public safety resources with the ongoing situation" when it crashed in a wooded area. The pilot, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, 48, of Midlothian, Virginia, and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates of Quinton, Virginia, died at the scene.
President Donald Trump condemned "in the strongest possible terms" what he called an "egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides" after the clashes. He called for "a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives."
Trump says he's spoken with the governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, and "we agreed that the hate and the division must stop and must stop right now."
But some of the white nationalists cited Trump's victory as validation for their beliefs, and Trump's critics pointed to the president's racially tinged rhetoric as exploiting the nation's festering racial tension.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee issued a statement condemning the violence.
"No American can ignore the disgusting hate and violence we’ve seen in Charlottesville over the last two days.
"Trudi and I hold the victims of today’s attack in our thoughts, and we know that all Washingtonians who believe in freedom, peace, and justice for all will do the same.
"It is on all of us, from me, to you, and all the way to the President, to denounce and decry the horror we’ve seen today in Virginia.
"But speaking out against this hate is not enough. Our actions as a nation in response to racist, nationalist bigotry will speak louder.
"We can not let anyone stoke racism for political gain. We can’t ignore an attack on our people. And we will not tolerate hate in any form, anywhere, in the United States of America."