News & Politics

Car Strikes Protesters During White Supremacist Rally in Charlottesville

"There was blood and people everywhere," says a Washingtonian photographer who was at the scene.

Photograph by Evy Mages

A car traveling at a high speed appeared to intentionally run over a group of demonstrators protesting Saturday’s white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville. One person was killed and another 19 were injured in the collision, the University of Virginia Medical Center says. Virginia State Police, who are investigating the incident, say that injuries range from minor to life-threatening.

Footage of the car—believed to be a gray, late-model Dodge Charger—ramming into the crowd and then backing away circulated on social media about 2 PM, a few hours after officials declared a state of emergency that cancelled the demonstrations planned for the day.

The Associated Press reports the driver of the car is in police custody.

Hundreds of members of groups ranging from armed militias to flag-waving neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan had descended on Charlottesville for an event calling itself “Unite the Right.” Similar numbers of counterprotesters also turned up, setting the stage for a conflict-filled day.

The groups left a downtown park after Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency, but skirmishes continued through the early afternoon.

Washingtonian photographer Evy Mages was at the intersection of Fourth and Water streets, Southeast, following a group of anti-racist protesters when the car incident occurred.

“I just followed this group and while I was on the phone I turned the corner I heard this terrible sound,” Mages says. “I wasn’t sure what it was, ramming and screaming. I turned the corner and went flat to the wall. A woman fell in front of me bloody. There was blood and people everywhere. I just saw bodies coming at me. It’s a very narrow one-way street so there was nowhere for people to go.”

Mages describes the current mood around Charlottesville as “total shock.” Along with city and state police, the Virginia National Guard has also been deployed.

“I am disgusted by the hatred, bigotry and violence these protesters have brought to our state over the past 24 hours,” McAuliffe said in his emergency declaration. On Friday evening, a similar group of white supremacists wielding tiki torches marched through the University of Virginia campus.

Mark Peterson, a freelance photographer accompanying Mages, says he saw the Charger backing away from the collision and saw that the car’s front end was heavily damaged.

“I was up on Market Street and following a group of white nationalists going to a car park,” Peterson says. “Then this Dodge came down and the bumper was under the wheels. He was trying to get away, fleeing the scene. People were yelling at police to go after. You could see a lot of the white nationalists head to their cars. You see them walking sheepishly down the street.”

Politicians of all stripes have condemned the white-supremacist groups that traveled to Charlottesville.

In a pair of tweets, President Trump wrote that “there no place for this kind of violence in America” and called the situation in Charlottesville “sad.”

UPDATE, 3:45 PM: In remarks to reporters about before giving a statement the Department of Veterans Affairs at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump again addressed the situation in Charlottesville. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides,” he said. “On many sides.”

The President refused to answer questions about white nationalists or whether the car incident is an apparent act of terrorism.

This story will be updated.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.