1151 GMT February 23, 2018
Bloody street brawls broke out between dozens of anti-racism activists and far-right attendees, many of whom carried shields, weapons and Nazi and Confederate battle flags. One woman was killed when a driver plowed a sports car into a crowd of protesters; he was arrested and charged with murder and other crimes. Two troopers died when a Virginia State Police helicopter crashed near the city after monitoring the chaos.
By the end of the day, top political officials around the nation, both Republicans and Democrats, were nearly unanimous in denouncing racism and the violence that stemmed from the rally, which was called off before it could even begin.
But in a television statement that drew criticism from many of his fellow Republicans, as well as from Democrats, President Donald Trump blamed the violence “on many sides, on many sides.” As he did repeatedly during his presidential campaign, Trump avoided direct criticism of the nation’s burgeoning white nationalist movement, whose leaders have openly and repeatedly embraced Trump’s presidency.
He tweeted that, “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!”
The violence took place near the University of Virginia, whose founder Thomas Jefferson envisioned a country where "all men are created equal" in the Declaration of Independence he co-authored.
Critics focused on the president apparently equating the violence of white supremacist protesters with that of anti-fascist activists, AFP reported.
The president stopped short of condemning white nationalist and supremacist groups, which broadly supported Trump in last year's election.
The president was quickly criticized by liberals such as his 2016 election opponent Hillary Clinton, who did not name Trump but tweeted that "Every minute we allow this to persist through tacit encouragement or inaction is a disgrace, & corrosive to our values."
But some prominent Republicans were more direct.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe had already declared a state of emergency to provide more resources to law enforcement when a sedan surged into a crowd of what witnesses said were counter-demonstrators in the picturesque university town, AFP added.