Violence in Charlottesville: What Birmingham Mayor William Bell, Rep. Terri Sewell and others are saying

By Erica Wright

The Birmingham Times

By Virginia State Police via Twitter

Local political and civil rights leaders and members of Congress said they are disturbed by the violence that ensued during protests in Charlottesville on Saturday and condemned the white nationalists who clashed with counter protesters in the streets.

A car ran into crowds, leaving one woman dead and more than 30 people injured. Hours after the protest, two Virginia State police officers died in a helicopter crash on the outskirts of town.

James Alex Fields Jr., the Ohio man accused of killing a woman when he allegedly rammed his car into a group protesting against the white nationalist rally in Virginia was denied bail Monday in his first court appearance since the chaos in Charlottesville.

“I am deeply disturbed by the act of terror which was committed Saturday in Charlottesville,” said Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell. “As a nation, our message must be clear: racism, white supremacy, and violence will not be tolerated. I send my prayers to the victims in Charlottesville, their families and the first responders who are working to keep their community safe. This tragic violence is a reminder that we must recommit ourselves to ending racism and bigotry wherever they exist.”

Congresswoman Martha Roby condemned the violence which took place saying she was “appalled by the unspeakable bigotry and violence by white supremacists in Charlottesville. This hatred is un-American and cannot be tolerated.”

President Donald Trump on Monday condemned hate groups, including white supremacists, in remarks from the White House on Monday, after receiving criticism for his initial statement on the violence over the weekend.

“Racism is evil,” said Trump, “and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the [Ku Klux Klan], neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

Birmingham Mayor William Bell said on Instagram, “Bigotry has no place in our society. Birmingham has been a place that has fought for decades to rid the Jim Crow laws and end discrimination against individuals because of their race, creed or sexual orientation. We will continue that fight and denounce organizations such as the KKK and white supremacists organizations like Neo-Nazis.”

Benard Simelton, president of the Alabama National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said, “While the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP supports the First Amendment rights of all its’ citizens, we strongly condemn the violence at the protest rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. It is a shameful day in American history when white supremacists can rise up, protests in the streets of America, with combat gear, torches and weapons, assault Americans, and with limited police protections of its’ citizens.”

“The rise of white nationalist groups all over America, [show that they] feel comfortable because they see themselves represented in the White House,” he said.

Simelton also said it’s shameful that people believe in their hearts that the confederacy stands for “American Heritage.”

“We are all Americans and this is not what America stands for,” said Simelton.

Hezekiah Jackson IV, president of the Birmingham Chapter of the NAACP, said, “We serve notice again to these evil forces masked as White Supremacists, Nationalists, Klu Klux Klans, Greater Americans and Domestic Terrorists, that we will not go back, we will not be pushed back, nor will we turn back. We will watch, [speak] out, stand up and fight, as well as pray for justice. These evil people do not just hurt peaceful people, they take great pride in the pain they cause and then try to blame their victims.

“Evil can only triumph when those who seek good, do nothing.”

How the events unfolded

On Friday, white supremacist protesters had brandished torches and marched onto the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville. They were met by counter protesters and tensions began to escalate resulting in several brawls.

On Saturday, white supremacists decided to hold a larger “Unite the Right” rally at noon. The gathering quickly spiraled out of control as protesters and counter protesters faced off and clashed around the city.

Eventually, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and police urged the crowds to disperse. After police told crowds to disperse, things took a turn for the worse.

Hours after the protest, two Virginia State police officers died in a helicopter crash on the outskirts of town. They were identified as Berke M.M. Bates of Quinton, Virginia, who was the pilot and H. Jay Cullen of Midlothian, Virginia, who was the passenger. State police said their helicopter was assisting with the unrest in Charlottesville.

Abcnews.go.com, www.nbcnews.com, yellowhammernews.com contributed to this report.

Updated at 11:03 p.m. on 8/14/2017 to include comments by Birmingham Mayor William Bell.