The federal government has opened a civil rights investigation into the vehicular rampage that killed one woman and injured 19 other people during Saturday’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a statement Saturday night to announce the probe.
“The Richmond FBI Field Office, the Civil Rights Division, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia have opened a civil rights investigation into the circumstances of the deadly vehicular incident that occurred earlier Saturday morning,” Sessions said in the statement. “The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence, and as this is an ongoing investigation we are not able to comment further at this time.”
The rally was organized by right-wing blogger Jason Kessler, who wanted to protest the city of Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park. The event quickly turned chaotic, as the largest gathering of white nationalist to come together in over a decade clashed with counter-protesters and police.
Sessions condemned the violence in Charlottesville.
“When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated,” the attorney general said.
“I have talked with FBI Director Chris Wray, FBI agents on the scene, and law enforcement officials for the state of Virginia. The FBI has been supporting state and local authorities throughout the day,” Sessions said. “U.S. Attorney Rick Mountcastle has commenced a federal investigation and will have the full support of the Department of Justice. Justice will prevail.”
According to State Police, three people have been arrested in connection with the alt-right rally in Charlottesville.
Sessions’ statement drew mixed reactions on social media. Some praised the decision to make the case a civil rights investigation, while others saw the case as terrorism and murder, with race a nonfactor.
Meanwhile, the nation’s leading civil rights organizations issued a number of statements in reaction to Saturday’s events.
The NAACP, for example, called for President Trump to fire his adviser Steve Bannon, describing Bannon as a “well-known white supremacist leader.”
The National Urban League added: “We call on everyone with a voice on our national stage to condemn these demonstrations & racist sentiments in the strongest possible terms.”
The National Action Network said it “calls on President Trump to address the causes of these events, denounce the white supremacists at the very heart of this conflict, and start working towards peace.”
Protesters took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles on Saturday night to decry what transpired in Charlottesville earlier in the day.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.