Charlottesville: State of emergency over US far-right rally

White nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the "alt-right" exchange volleys of pepper spray with counter-protesters. Photo: AFP

A state of emergency has been declared in the American city of Charlottesville because of street violence, ahead of a large march by white nationalists.

Thousands of protesters are expected to join a “Unite the Right” rally against plans to remove a statue of the Civil War Confederate general Robert E Lee.

Violent clashes between far-right groups and counter-protesters have left at least two injured, police say.

Earlier, hundreds of torch-bearing people chanted “White lives matter” as they marched through the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville.

Police fired tear gas against demonstrators, who were throwing bottles and using pepper spray, and said that arrests had been made after a declaration of unlawful assembly at Emancipation Park.

The state of emergency allowed local authorities to request additional resources if needed, the police department said.

President Donald Trump has condemned the violence.

General Lee commanded the Confederate forces in the US Civil War of 1861-65.

Anti-racism organisations such as Black Lives Matter have also held marches.

 A man wears a 'Make America Great Again' hat during the

A man wears a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat during the “Unite the Right” rally. Photo: AFP

The white nationalists have been criticised by many local residents and politicians, with Charlottesville mayor Mike Signer calling the marches ‘cowardly parades of hatred, bigotry, racism and intolerance’.

They have also prompted a tweet from the First Lady, Melania Trump, saying violence does not solve anything.

Charlottesville is considered a liberal college town – and 86 percent of the county voted for Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential elections.

However, the town has become a focal point for white nationalists after the city council voted to remove a statue of General Lee.

Some observers also argue that Mr Trump’s election to the White House re-energised the far right across the US. /radionz