Charlottesville attack: What, where and who?

A man rammed a car into anti-racist protesters in Virginia. Here is what happened.

Protests turned violent in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday, as white supremacists clashed with counter-demonstrators, and a car ploughed into the crowd of anti-racist and anti-fascist protesters. Here is what we know.

What happened and when? 

  • A “Unite the Right” rally was planned for Saturday, August 12 to protest against the removal of a statue of Confederate icon General Robert E Lee.

  • Described as one of the largest white supremacist events in recent US history, it was organised by Jason Kessler, a former journalist and a member of the Proud Boys, an ultra-nationalist group.

  • The day before, on Friday, marchers descended on the University of Virginia carrying torches and yelling slogans “white lives matter” and “blood and soil”.
  • Protesters gathered again on Saturday, and clashed with counter-demonstrators.

  • At 11:28am (15:35 GMT) a local state of emergency was declared by the City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle.

  • At 1:42pm (17:42 GMT) a speeding car rammed into anti-racist protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring at least 19 others. 

  • The speeding car fled the scene but was soon located and stopped by police.

  • James Alex Fields Jr of Ohio has been charged with second-degree murder and other counts following the incident. 

  • A police helicopter also crashed while en route to the rally on Saturday, killing two state troopers. 

Where did it happen?


This took place in Charlottesville, a university town of 46,000 people, in the state of Virginia in the United States.

Charlottesville has become a focal point of the resurgent white supremacist movement after officials there voted to take down a statue of the Confederate General Robert E Lee.

Who was behind it?

  • The driver of the car, 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr was arrested shortly after the incident and was charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count of hit-and-run.

  • In connection with the events at Charlottesville today, police made three additional arrests.

  • Troy Dunigan, 21, was charged with disorderly conduct.

  • Jacob L Smith, 21, was charged with misdemeanour assault and battery.

  • James M O’Brien, 41, was charged with carrying a concealed gun.

WATCH: White supremacists emboldened by Trump

How many casualties?

  • Thirty-two-year-old Heather Heyer died in hospital after being hit in the car ramming. 

  • Lieutenant Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Bates, who were on board the crashed helicopter, died.

  • Thirty-five people were injured at the rally, 19 confirmed by the hospital in Charlottesville.

Is Charlottesville now safe? What is the latest on the ground?

Police intervened after clashes broke out and dispersed the crowd, and Governor McAuliffe declared a state of emergency.

The governor’s office also urged all members of the community to stay home on Saturday evening.

What are people saying?

On August 12, US President Donald Trump condemned the clashes “on many sides” in Charlottesville in a Twitter post:

Two days later, after public outcry, he specifically condemned white supremacy.

But on Tuesday, he seemed to backtrack, insisting that there was “blame on both sides” including by anti-fascist protesters. 

His comments have drawn widespread criticism from many on all sides of the political spectrum. 

The remarks were also welcomed by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who tweeted: “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth.”

Senator Bernie Sanders condemned the clashes and said, “it was a reprehensible display of racism and hatred”.

Senator Cory Gardner labelled them as “domestic terrorism”: 

And former US President Barack Obama wrote: 

What happened next?

  • A local state of emergency was declared 

  • The FBI launched its own investigation into the incident.

  • fundraising campaign for the family of the woman killed in a car-ramming attack in Charlottesville raised tens of thousands of dollars.

  • A “Moment of Unity” was held in Charlottesville, giving citizens a chance to offer prayers and support to the victims.

  • Judge Robert Downer said during a bail hearing on Monday, August 14, that he would appoint a lawyer for James Alex Fields Jr. 

  • The next scheduled court hearing is on August 25, though Fields’ attorney could request a bond hearing before then.

  • A rally against racism took place in North Carolina, and a Confederate statue was toppled.


Far-right activists clash with counter-protesters at the rally [Joshua Roberts/Reuters]
Far-right activists clash with counter-protesters at the rally [Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

Flowers and a photo of car ramming victim Heather Heyer lie at a makeshift memorial in Charlottesville [Justin Ide/Reuters]
Flowers and a photo of car ramming victim Heather Heyer lie at a makeshift memorial in Charlottesville [Justin Ide/Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera