It is an open secret that a solid portion of the support that catapulted Donald Trump to the White House last year came from some very extremist quarters. These people operate and agitate for societal changes to their liking under the blanket term of the “Alt-Right,” which describes those whose conservative viewpoints have a tendency to go far beyond the pale.

Under the Trump administration, they have become so openly pervasive in public protests on a bigger level than before. Charlottesville in Virginia has been a frequent venue for alt-Right white nationalists to gather and call for “taking America back.” This weekend, however, saw a tragic turn of events when protesters meeting counter-protesters led to three deaths and multiple injuries.

Two tragedies

In the middle of a tense standoff this Saturday, August 12, between a white nationalist rally and a gathering of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, a gray 2010 Dodge Challenger suddenly accelerated down a street and plowed through a crowd crossing the street. The people the sports car had collided with were participants of the counter-protest that gathered to oppose the “Unite the Right” rally of white supremacists at Lee Park, due northwest from where the crash occurred. Eyewitness camera footage captured the horrifying sight of the collision, with some of the victims sailing over the Dodge Challenger’s roof.

At the same time, a police helicopter that was monitoring the rally situation from the air that same day lost altitude and crashed into a wooded area outside of Charlottesville proper.

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The two Virginia State Police officers piloting the chopper were killed. Of the car collision, 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed instantly, while 19 others were injured. Some of the wounded are in the hospital in critical condition while nine others got off lightly enough that they were released shortly after.

Blame game

The Dodge Challenger’s driver was later arrested and identified as James Alex Fields Jr., 20, from Maumee, Ohio. According to Martin Kumer, Superintendent of the Albermarle-Charlottesville County Regional Jail, Fields has been charged with malicious wounding, failure to stop in an accident that resulted in death, and the second-degree murder of Heather Heyer.

In the wake of the incident, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe condemned the perpetrator of the collision, as well as the white nationalist protest that put Fields in a position to do what he did. In a statement, McAuliffe demanded that the “Unite the Right” protesters leave the city, and if possible, the country. President Donald Trump meanwhile was light-handed in assigning blame for the death and injuries, instead describing the violence as happening long before his term and those of his predecessors.