Violent clashes erupt at ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Va.

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Hundreds of people chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Saturday morning at white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and police dressed in riot gear ordered people to disperse after chaotic violent clashes between white nationalists and counter protesters.

Right-wing blogger Jason Kessler had called for what he termed a “pro-white” rally to protest the city of Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a downtown park.

It’s the latest confrontation in Charlottesville since the city about 100 miles outside of Washington, D.C., voted earlier this year to remove a statue of Lee.

Kessler said this week that the rally is partly about the removal of Confederate symbols but also about free speech and “advocating for white people.”

“This is about an anti-white climate within the Western world and the need for white people to have advocacy like other groups do,” he said in an interview.

The statue’s removal is part of a broader city effort to change the way Charlottesville’s history of race is told in public spaces. The city has also renamed Lee Park, where the statue stands, and Jackson Park, named for Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. They’re now called Emancipation Park and Justice Park, respectively.

For now, the Lee statue remains. A group called the Monument Fund filed a lawsuit arguing that removing the statue would violate a state law governing war memorials. A judge has agreed to a temporary injunction that blocks the city from removing the statue for six months.

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