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Charlottesville: far-right crowd with torches encircles counter-protest group

People gathering to oppose Unite the Right demonstration say they were hit with pepper spray and lighter fluid in clash on University of Virginia campus

Hundreds of far-right demonstrators wielded torches as they marched on to the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville on Friday night and reportedly attacked a much smaller group of counter-protesters who had linked arms around a statue of Thomas Jefferson.

Starting at a municipal park less than a mile away, alt-right protesters who have gathered for the weekend Unite the Right rally marched in a long column over the short distance to the campus, chanting slogans like You will not replace us and Blood and soil.

When the marchers reached and surrounded the counter-protesters there was a short verbal confrontation. Counter-protesters said they were then attacked with swung torches, pepper spray and lighter fluid.

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A man after being hit with pepper spray at the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Emily Gorcenski was among the protesters who said they were hit with the mace spray. [They] completely surrounded us and wouldnt let us out.

She said police did not intervene until long after the rightwing marchers had struck out at protesters. I saw hundreds of people chanting Nazi slogans and police do nothing.

Goresnki shared several live videos of the event.

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Unite the Right march on the University of Virginia campus. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Charlottesville police did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

Two male protesters who said they were also maced, and did not wish to be named, described far-right protesters moving from verbal abuse, to pushing and shoving protesters, to the noxious spray.

Someone from the alt right maced me right in the face unprovoked, said one. After they maced people they started punching people and hitting them with torches. Several protesters said a woman using a wheelchair was among those sprayed.

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A man is helped after being hit in the face with pepper spray. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Just up the street from the fracas, a community prayer meeting was held in St Pauls memorial church, addressed by several preachers including prominent civil rights leader Dr Cornel West. The end of the service overlapped with the torch parade and many people waited for long periods before leaving citing safety concerns.

In an interview, West said: The crypto-fascists, the neofascists, the neo-Nazis now feel so empowered, not just by Trump but by the whole shift in the nation towards scapegoats.

I dont like this talk about alt-right, thats an unnecessary abstraction. These are neofascists in contemporary garb.

On Saturday the small college city will face down a full scale Unite the Right rally, which is predicted to be the countrys largest in a decade.

Far-right monitoring groups estimate that between 500 and 1,000 people and 30 prominent speakers and groups will descend on the downtown area for the Saturday afternoon event, organised by local rightwing activist and former Daily Caller writer Jason Kessler.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/12/charlottesville-far-right-crowd-with-torches-encircles-counter-protest-group

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