Dozens of white supremacists staged a nationalist rally in Virginia, local media reported, adding that the torch-lit demonstration resulted in scuffles, injuries and possible arrests.
The protest took place in the city of Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia, on Friday night.
“You will not replace us,” participants gathered near the university campus chanted, the local Daily Progress newspaper reported.
Several scuffles broke out at the rally after some of the nationalists swung their torches at people, the paper said, adding that several people were injured at the rally and at least one person was arrested. Protesters claimed they were affected by pepper spray at the rally.
A brief brawl reportedly broke out after counter protesters deployed chemical spray, which affected the eyes of a dozen of protesters at the rally, the Washington Post said.
The president of the University of Virginia, Teresa A. Sullivan, said that she was “saddened and disrupted by the hateful behavior displayed by torch-bearing protestors.”
“I strongly condemn the unprovoked assault on members of our community, including University personnel who were attempting to maintain order. …The violence displayed on Grounds is intolerable and is entirely inconsistent with the University’s values,” she said in a statement.
The Friday night rally was the first to take place this weekend in the city. It comes ahead of the major Unite the Right rally, a nationalist protest against removing Confederate monuments from public spaces. Up to 6,000 people are expected to join the event, according to police estimates.
“We expect this to be a significant challenge for not only our public safety personnel, but also our community,” Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said. “There’s a lot of anxiety in this community. We feel that we have the resources available to protect our community.”
Organizers say the Unite the Right rally on Saturday aims to “unify the right-wing against a totalitarian Communist crackdown” and to protest “displacement level immigration policies” in the US and Europe.
They also seek to “affirm the right of Southerners and white people to organize for their interests just like any other group is able to do, free of persecution.”
The Facebook page of the event has be blocked for unknown reasons.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit that publishes an annual directory of ‘hate groups’ in the US, called the rally “the largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades,” saying it could be a “seminal point for the alt-right and extremist hate fringe.”
“It’s a bold move beyond the anonymity of websites, message boards, pseudonyms and social media — a move to take the hardcore, racist, white nationalist message to the public square,” the SPLC said.