SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The governor of Virginia has declared a state of emergency in Charlottesville after a rally to protest the removal of a Confederate statue turned violent today. White nationalist demonstrators and counter protesters have been facing off on the streets of Charlottesville. We're joined now by Sandy Hausman of member station WVTF and Radio IQ in Charlottesville. Sandy, thanks for being with us.
SANDY HAUSMAN, BYLINE: Sure.
SIMON: You've been out at the scene today. What have you seen? What's been happening?
HAUSMAN: Well, the reality, Scott, is that this rally was supposed to start at noon. But people started showing up well before then. There were probably about 500 of these white supremacists who met in Emancipation Park. It's a small space that used to be known as Lee Park, and there is that statue of Robert E. Lee on horseback there. And as you mentioned, the city wants to get rid of it. And that's why these white supremacists decided they wanted to meet there.
The city wanted protesters to rally in a much bigger space, but the organizers sued. And yesterday, a federal judge ruled that under the First Amendment, they had that right - that the location was significant and part of their freedom of expression. There were also at least a thousand counter protesters who showed up. Some were very peaceful. A couple were passing out flowers and offering hugs. And the event has drawn a very large contingent of religious leaders. Local ministers put out a call for a thousand religious leaders to come to Charlottesville, and quite a few have shown up.
SIMON: Well, we're seeing horrifying pictures, I think really all over the world at the moment, of violence. What did you see? How did that begin?
HAUSMAN: Yeah, I wouldn't describe our situation as horrible. But certainly, it was not pleasant. What has happened is, initially, these white supremacists were meeting in the small park. They were surrounded by the counter protesters who were shouting some pretty hostile slogans at them. And parties of white supremacists would grab their shields and sort of waltz past the counter protesters, and there would be more shouting. And some fights did break out, and police used tear gas to break them up. There's quite a large cloud floating over this group.
And that was when the governor declared a state of emergency. It was about 11:30. And police labeled the Unite the Right an unlawful assembly. And they gave the demonstrators a choice. They could be arrested, or they could move to the larger park, which is about a mile away. And that's what they did. They marched over to the other park, and that's where they are right now. And I believe some National Guardsmen may have been deployed to that area along with local and county police and state police. So it's, you know, a tense situation. But so far, we've not had any serious injuries.
SIMON: Sandy, I think a lot of people think of Charlottesville as a place of, you know, wine bars and fair trade coffee shops and - very literary place...
SIMON: ...And progressive place. How are the people of Charlottesville reacting to being a dateline now?
HAUSMAN: Yeah, Charlottesville's not a town for activists. I mean, there are some here. But I'd say most people in this town would describe themselves as liberals, and they feel very badly about what's going on. And a couple of them actually organized a fundraiser to help immigrants and low-income African-American families. And the last time I checked, they had more than 500 pledges.
SIMON: Sandy Hausman of member station WVTF and Radio IQ from Charlottesville, thanks so very much for being with us.
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