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Trump condemns violence at far-right rally

President Donald Trump has condemned mass brawls which broke out between white supremacists and anti-Nazi activists at a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

People threw punches, hurled water bottles and used pepper spray during the violence as riot police were deployed to try to disperse the crowds.

Mr Trump tweeted: “We all must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!”

He went on: “Am in Bedminster for meetings & press conference on V.A. & all that we have done, and are doing, to make it better-but Charlottesville sad!”

Charlottesville mayor Michael Signer had said he was disgusted the white nationalists had come to his town and blamed the US leader for inflaming racial prejudices during his presidential campaign last year.

Mr Signer said: “I’m not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you’re seeing in American today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president.”

The fighting prompted Charlottesville city manager Maurice Jones and interim county executive Doug Walker to simultaneously declare local states of emergency for the two jurisdictions.

The city hall then declared a rally that had led to large numbers of far-right activists gathering an “unlawful assemblage” and Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe declared an emergency as police struggled to manage the two groups.

Up to 6,000 white nationalists had been expected to attend the “Unite the Right” rally.

At least two people have been hurt in clashes so far, police said, with injuries described as serious but not life-threatening.

TV pictures showed one of the fights erupting when the anti-Nazi protesters approached the white supremacists with what looked like a wooden banner.

A man was seen brandishing a stick as many in the crowd wore helmets as the two sides clashed
Image:A man was seen brandishing a stick as many in the crowd wore helmets as the two sides clashed

As they did so, they were met by a wall of men dressed in body armour and helmets, some of whom used pepper spray, police said.

Other footage showed rivals on either side using hand-made shields as they fought each other.

Initially it appeared as though police were not getting involved but the the Virginia State Police have since posted pictures of heavily armed officers carrying out arrests.

The violence prompted First Lady Melania Trump to call for an end to the clashes, tweeting: “Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let’s communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence. #Charlottesville”

The clashes came after a federal judge ordered Charlottesville authorities to allow a weekend rally of white nationalists and other extremists to take place.

The rally was organised to protest against Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from the city’s Emancipation Park.

Some were seen holding shields as skirmishes took place
Image:Some were seen holding shields as skirmishes took place

Right-wing blogger Jason Kessler filed a lawsuit demanding the right to hold a protest at the spot but after the city said the rally must be moved out of Emancipation Park to a larger one, a US District Judge granted permission.

The Southern Poverty Law Center said it was expecting a range of far-right groups to attend including the National Socialist Movement, the League of the South, as well as “various anti-government, Patriot, militia, Klan, III Percenters and anti-immigration groups”.

The state of emergency allows local officials to request additional resources if needed to respond to ongoing events, authorities said.

Police arrest one of the activists in Charlottesville. Pic: Virginia State Police
Image:Police arrest one of the activists in Charlottesville. Pic: Virginia State Police

Some commentators have described how many far-right activists in the US regard Charlottesville as a test case, because of what they see as an attack on parts of their history.

Two organisations that track extremist groups said the rally has the potential to be the largest of its kind in at least a decade,

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