Tensions flared and protesters clashed in Virginia early Saturday ahead of a massive gathering of white nationalists, neo-Confederates and alt-right activists.
Thousands descended upon the usually sleepy college town of Charlottesville, hours after torch-carrying white nationalists marched through the campus of the University of Virginia.
A state of emergency was declared by Charlottesville officials just after 11 a.m., according to the Daily Progress.
At least two people were injured earlier as protesters and opponents stormed into a downtown park and used pepper spray on one another, officials told the newspaper. Plastic bottles and other objects were lobbed between the two sides.
The quaint town of 46,000, near Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home, has become an epicentre of outrage over the removal of Confederate statues across the South.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who had placed the National Guard on standby, declared a state of emergency “to aid state response to violence at Alt-Right rally in Charlottesville” around noon.
Among those in attendance were “Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler, alt-right leader Richard Spencer and former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke.
Camouflage-clad men in combat gear, many carrying rifles, shields and Confederate flags, clashed with counter-protesters.
Cops began trying to disperse the crowd shortly before noon as violent clashes continued and officials declared the gathering an unlawful assembly.