Virginia state of emergency: Three dead, dozens injured, after clashes at rally

Incident happened after city authorities call on marchers to go home

Virginia State Police cordon off an area around the site where a car ran into a group of protesters after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
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At least three people have been killed and 35 injured after protests turned violent in Charlottesville, Virginia, as white nationalists protesting plans to remove the statue of a Confederate general clashed with counter-demonstrators.

A 32-year-old woman was among those killed when a car ploughed into a crowd, according to Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas, and injuries ranged from life-threatening to minor.

The man driving the vehicle is in custody, Thomas said, and police were treating the incident as a criminal homicide investigation.

Two other people died in a helicopter crash on Saturday near where white nationalists and counter-protesters had clashed earlier in the day, officials said.

The Bell 407 helicopter with two people on board crashed 7 miles south west of Charlottesville, Jim Peters, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said in an email. The cause of the crash was not immediately determined.

The incidents came hours after violent clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters amid rising tensions in the city.

The nationalists were holding the rally in protest over plans by the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee.

Several hundred protesters were marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them.

Matt Korbon, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, said counter-protesters were marching when "suddenly there was just this tire screeching sound."

A silver sedan smashed into another car, then backed up, ploughing through "a sea of people", he added, scattering crowds who ran for safety in different directions.

At least one person was seen lying on the ground receiving medical treatment from the incident which involved three vehicles, according to the city’s police department.

“Multiple injuries are reported. People should clear the area to allow emergency medical personnel to respond,” it said in a Facebook post.

Virginia's governor Terry McAuliffe had declared a state of emergency in response to the rally. Authorities declared an unlawful assembly and police ordered people to disperse.

The 'Unite the Right' demonstrations began on Friday in Charlottesville with white nationalists marching through town and while carrying lit torches. The demonstrators then clashed with counter-protesters.

Earlier, US president Donald Trump tweeted that "we ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for".

He then wrote: "There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!"