Rolling Stone reports;
In Charlottesville on Saturday, after the city council and Virginia governor declare a state of emergency and police disband the Unite the Right rally organized by white supremacists, I am following a growing group of demonstrators against the rally, who have begun marching east down Water Street, the southern perimeter of the city's historic downtown mall. Just a few blocks from Emancipation Park, where the white supremacist rally had been scheduled, the marchers appear nonviolent but raucous, chanting, "Whose streets? Our streets!" and holding signs like, "Nazi carpetbaggers go home."
Moments later, the crowd hears a loud, sharp thud. People start screaming and running north, up 3rd and 4th streets to Main Street, a seven-block pedestrian-only stretch of restaurants, shops, and bars. On a typical summer Saturday, this historic Virginia city would be teeming with families and tourists, but today it is filled with police officers in riot gear, who form grim lines to block pedestrians' access to various points along the mall. But it is becoming increasingly clear that they seem nearly immobile in their posting, slow or non-responsive to the skirmishes that are breaking out along the many side streets along the mall, where both rally goers and protesters linger, despite the state of emergency.
The atmosphere around the mall was already thick with apprehension, as anti-racist protesters and Charlottesville locals peered down side streets, looking for the roving bands of white supremacists who seemed to pop out of nowhere, with little reaction from the police. Shortly before the car ramming, I see a man marching with the National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi group, punch a black woman who had thrown ice from her cup at him. Bystanders intervene, but the police do not respond. In a parking lot a few blocks off the mall on South Street, ambulances are pulling away as anti-racist protesters are still confronting heavily armed men, sitting in and around a pair of pick-up trucks while police look on.
It was the white supremacists who, in what was declared an "unlawful assembly" disbanded by Charlottesville police on Friday night, marched on the University of Virginia campus with torches, chanting "white lives matter," "you will not replace us," and the Nazi slogan "blood and soil." It's an alt-right tactic that has become familiar: deploying a terrifying and enduring symbol of violence against people of color, or against Jews, and defending their actions by saying it was a fun way of energizing their movement.
On Saturday, Richard Spencer, the president of the white nationalist National Policy Institute, who popularized the term "alt-right" to describe a movement that advocates for a "white ethno-state," depicts the Friday night torch march as an "amazing, spectacular demonstration" (Steve Bannon, Trump's top strategist, has boasted that as head of Breitbart News, he provided "the platform for the Alt-Right.") The Alt-Right has marched with torches before, at a previous demonstration in Charlottesville in May. "I love the torches," Spencer tells Rolling Stone. "It's spectacular; it's theatrical and mystical and magical and religious, even."
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