3 deaths linked to white nationalist rally in Virginia

Rescue workers move victims on stretchers after car plowed through a crowd of counter-demonstrators marching through the downtown shopping district August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A 32-year-old woman is dead and multiple other people were injured after a driver plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters in Charlottesville on Saturday afternoon, Police Chief Al Thomas said.

Two Virginia state police officers were also killed in a helicopter crash outside Charlottesville. Officials said the deaths were connected to the rally, but they did not clarify how.

The car crash had occurred following a day of violent and chaotic clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters. The driver of the car has been arrested, and Thomas said at a press conference Saturday evening that the injuries from the crash range from minor to life-threatening.

He added that police are treating the car crash as a criminal homicide investigation.

In total, more than three dozen people were injured, officials said, including the car crash and individual altercations. None of the injuries were a result of clashes with police officers, Thomas said.

“The premeditated violence that our community experienced today was completely unacceptable,” Thomas said, adding that the Virginia National Guard had been deployed at one point to disperse the crowds.

At the press conference, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe delivered a harsh rebuke of the white nationalists who attended the rally.

“You came here today to hurt people. And you did hurt people. My message is clear: we are stronger than you,” he said.

“I have a message to all the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today: My message is go home. You are not wanted in this commonwealth. Shame on you … You are anything but a patriot.”

After the deaths were announced, President Donald Trump tweeted, “Deepest condolences to the families & fellow officers of the VA State Police who died today. You’re all among the best this nation produces.”

Trump faced vehement criticism for his comments earlier on Saturday pinning blame for the violence in Charlottesville “on many sides.”

The protests that began Friday evening and continued on Saturday accompanied a “Unite the Right” rally that was called by white nationalists in response to a plan to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from a park in Charlottesville, Virginia.

One of the counter-protesters who was hit described the scene to a reporter shortly after. “There were just a few cars that counter-protesters were blocking,” the man said. 

He then said that the driver of the car was “honking their horn” and then “they were just, like, bulldozing through people.” 

Another witness had two friends who were hit by the car and had to take them to the hospital. The witness described the incident as “absolutely intentional.” 

“I am furious & heartsick by the car crash that has injured many,” Charlottesville mayor Mike Signer tweeted. “Please all-go home to your families. We can work tomorrow. GO HOME! PLEASE!”

McAuliffe had declared a state of emergency earlier on Saturday, as clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters continued to escalate. 

Warning: The footage below contains graphic content and may be disturbing to some viewers

WATCH: VA Gov. McAuliffe to white supremacists in Charlottesville: “You pretend that you are patriots but you are anything but a patriot.” pic.twitter.com/GLuUewc7VM
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 12, 2017

Video of car hitting anti-racist protestors. Let there be no confusion: this was deliberate terrorism. My prayers with victims. Stay home. pic.twitter.com/MUOZs71Pf4
— Brennan Gilmore (@brennanmgilmore) August 12, 2017