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Violence Breaks Out between Protestors and Counter-Protestors at Charlottesville Rally; Car Appears to Purposely Plow into Group of Counter-Protestors at Charlottesville Rally; President Tweets about Violence at Charlottesville Rally; President to Speak about Violence at Charlottesville Rally. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired August 12, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:18] BORIS SANCHEZ, FOX NEWS HOST: Welcome to the CNN Newsroom. I'm Boris Sanchez in for Fredricka Whitfield who has the weekend off. Thank you so much for joining us.
We're following breaking news out of Virginia. The governor has declared a state of emergency in Charlottesville after white supremacist protests turned violent in that town. Demonstrators clashed with counter-protesters, leading police to move in to break things up.
This rally was in response to Charlottesville's decision to remove monuments honoring its Confederate past, and things very quickly got out of control shortly before the demonstration began this morning. Watch.
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SANCHEZ: Now, this continued for more than an hour after with all kinds of projectiles flying around. President Trump responded to the violence just a short time ago, tweeting out, quote, "We all must be united and condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Let us come together as one."
CNN's Kaylee Hartung joins us now from Charlottesville. And Kaylee, what is happening where you are right now?
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Boris, Emancipation Park, formerly known as Lee Park, the park that holds the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee has been cleared. Once that gathering of protestors and counter-protestors was determined to be unlawful assembly, police made everyone there, 1,000 protesters, disperse. But now you know those folks have fled to other areas of this small town.
I'm right now standing on the downtown mall area of Charlottesville just a couple of blocks from that park. A pedestrian-only street lined with restaurants and small businesses, the heart of downtown Charlottesville. And the block I'm looking at right now, Boris, is lined with police in riot gear. The people very uncertain of where protesters and counter-protesters have turned to as that assembly was dispersed. But there is a feeling of unrest and just tension here, a lot of uncertainty, knowing and not knowing what could happen next as emotions are running high on this day. They've already seen so much violence, not just today but also in that rally you saw white supremacists leading through the University of Virginia campus.
And a lot of locals here having a hard time grappling with the images coming out of this otherwise quiet college town. We have seen the verbal altercations between, yes, of course, protesters and counter- protesters, in addition to the violence, but also I've seen verbal altercations between members of this community telling people visiting here from outside to go home, to leave them be and to let Charlottesville return to the college town it normally would be in the lead up to school starting back up again later this month.
SANCHEZ: All right, Kaylee Hartung reporting live from Charlottesville. Thank you.
I want to get straight to Athena Jones who is in New Jersey where the president is having a working vacation. After waiting for him to respond to the violence in Charlottesville for quite some time, it appears that the president has just tweeted again, Athena, right?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Boris. That's right. After hours of silence, we've now seen two tweets from the president just in the last 40 minutes. This latest tweet, just a couple of minutes ago at the top of the hour tweeting out, "Am in Bedminster for meetings and press conference on V.A.," veterans affairs, "and all that we have done and are doing to make it better, but Charlottesville, sad!" exclamation point.
We've heard that sort of sentence construction in tweets before from the president, calling various things sad. Now he's calling what's going on in Charlottesville sad. Forty minutes ago was when we saw his first tweet. I'll read that again for our viewers. He said, "We all must be united and condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Let's come together as one." That tweet coming about 40 minutes ago, again, the first time we heard from the president.
A few minutes after the president posted that tweet, we also heard from Vice President Mike Pence who quote tweeted the president and added that he stands with @POTUS, the president of the United States, against hate and violence. "U.S. is greatest when we join together and oppose those seeking to divide us, #Charlottesville."
[14:05:03] It's important to note here, Boris, as we've been saying for some time now, that we finally did hear from the president and vice president, but after hearing from a number of other officials, Republican-elected officials, and even another member of the first family. We heard from first lady Melania Trump about the violence in Charlottesville even before we heard from the president and vice president. We also heard from Speaker Paul Ryan, speaker of the House. We heard from Ronna Romney McDaniel who was the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, all of those responses coming before we heard from the man in charge, the president.
We usually expect to see presidents traditionally trying to calm and soothe tensions in a situation like this. I do think one other thing is notable about these two tweets now from the president. In neither of them does he explicitly condemn the white nationalists who organized this demonstration and the demonstration last night in Charlottesville that we're now seeing resulting in violence. That's noteworthy for two reasons. One reason is that candidate Trump got a lot of support from white nationalists, from the alt-right movement during the campaign.
Now, after the election, when he was president-elect, he gave an interview to "The New York Times" condemning those groups and saying he doesn't want to energize them. But we have not seen him explicitly condemning white nationalists today.
One more reason this is notable is that just a few days ago a high level White House official, Sebastian Gorka, who was a deputy assistant to the president, gave an interview to "Breitbart News Daily," a radio program. He was talking about terrorism and this idea of a lone wolf terrorist, but at one point took issue with some of the criticism from other journalists, and he said that the white man, white supremacists are not the problem here. That is a remarkable statement to hear from a high level official in the White House, to hear him say that white supremacists are not a problem -- do not sometimes lead to violence. Of course we saw Dylann Roof just a couple years ago was a lone wolf shooter and an avowed white supremacist who was responsible for killing those church goers in Charleston. So remarkable to see that kind of comment from a member of the White House team, Boris.
SANCHEZ: Let's also not forget, Athena, that the president criticized Democrats throughout the campaign for not naming the enemy by name in radical Islamic terror. Now he is not exactly naming this enemy by its name. Athena Jones, we thank you for the report from New Jersey.
This rally in Charlottesville attracted white nationalists from all over the country, including former Klansman David Duke. And he tied these protests directly to the president. Listen to this.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does today represent to you? The camera's right here. What does today represent to you?
DAVID DUKE, FORMER KKK LEADER: This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back. We're going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That's what we believed in. That's why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he's going to take our country back. And that's what we got to do.
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SANCHEZ: For his part the president has denounced and disavowed David Duke, saying there is no place for this kind of violence in America. I want to bring in our panel now, CNN political analyst Tara Palmeri,
Julian Zelizer, he's a CNN political analyst, and of course CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter. Brian, I want to start with you on this question regarding the president's response. First off, we didn't hear directly from the president himself. We first heard from the first lady, which is unusual. And then he doesn't go onto specifically cite who is doing the hate. In other words, it's a generic term about hate, but he's not going after these people by name.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: In this Twitter age and this cable news age there is an expectation of an almost instant response from President Trump. And that's an expectation that he has partly set himself by reacting so quickly. For example, at a terror attack in London, at a possible terrorist attack in Paris, France, months ago, we saw almost instantaneous reactions to those incidents from President Trump, potentially because he was watching cable news at that moment.
The lack of an instant response from the president is, I think, one of the reasons why he's being criticized now. So let's see what he says this afternoon. I think it will be notable what he actually says on camera. That will drive the news coverage of this into the evening.
Meanwhile, this story in Charlottesville is not over. Reports of a car striking pedestrians downtown just now, apparently people injured there according to local reporters. This is still very much ongoing. So the president can have influence with what he says on Twitter and what he says on camera.
SANCHEZ: Yes, CNN is now working to confirm those reports. Tara, I want to go to you. Why is it that so many of these, whether alt-right or white nationalists or white supremacist leaders like David Duke, like Richard spencer, seem to embrace the president so much? You heard David Duke saying this is a fulfillment of his campaign promises.
[14:10:05] TARA PALMERI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: President Donald Trump really appealed to them because a big portion of this group of people, they do make up a large part of his base. They believe that they are being economically disadvantaged by the immigrant community, which essentially is people who are non-white who they think have come to the United States, often from Mexico and from other places and are taking their jobs.
And this is a big part of his rally cry. It really applies to, you know, the working class who maybe can compete with some of the jobs that require more education. And so they have this sort of common thread between them. But let's not forget that Trump did attract a lot of minorities as well.
The problem is that the people who did vote for him, which were larger than his base at the time in 2016, who knows if those people will come along with him -- the group of them who are not part of his core 30 percent base. And so he needs to be speaking to a broader audience than just 30 percent right now if he wants to be reelected. SANCHEZ: Julian, to you, you are very well versed in history. And it
seems like today history is repeating itself. We're talking about the possibility of nuclear war. We're seeing people fighting in the street over race. Earlier we heard representative from Tennessee Marsha Blackburn say that this is just a part of our nation's history. What did you make of the ugliness today in Charlottesville?
JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we've seen ugliness in different parts of American history, but a lot of what's going on in Charlottesville today is really an ongoing reaction to many of the moments of progress from the 1960s such as racial justice. And this is a rally driven by white nationalist organizations. So it's not repeating the '60s. It's in some ways a rejection of them.
And the real question isn't why President Trump took so long to condemn the violence. It's, why didn't he condemn the march to begin with? That's the real question here, and it's an ongoing concern about where these groups fit in a governing coalition that many see as reactionary.
SANCHEZ: And, Brian, was the president's response enough, or do you think he needs to do more than simply disavow these groups?
STELTER: I don't think he's going to satisfy any of his detractors with his two tweets today. Let's see what he says on camera. Maybe he will go much further. But we have seen in the past a reluctance for him to engage on these issues. If you think about the mosque in Minnesota that was apparently targeted about a week ago, no presidential reaction to that incident as well. Some of the local faith leaders were wondering why the president hadn't spoken out about that.
So there's a pattern to this. Let's recognize that. Let's at the same time recognize this is not all about President Trump. The issues in this country were not all created November 9th or 8th of last year. Like Julian said, this is reaction to decades of progress. And there are these fringe people on the right, this today is a rightwing protest, and then counter-protesters, there are these fringe folks that are kind of mobilized and radicalized what they read on the internet they come out here with racist beliefs. They are by the numbers a small group of people, but they are empowered by others who sometimes stay silent.
SANCHEZ: Tara, I think you -- did you say something?
PALMERI: No, I just agreed with Brian in the sense that they are a small group of people, but it is still shocking to see them on television. And the thing is that Trump needs to understand that they are a small group of people, and they are worth alienating in a way by calling them out. But it's also politically risky for them since those are the people that wouldn't traditionally go and went out to vote and went out to vote for him in 2016.
STELTER: Yes, when you even have one of these protesters caught on camera saying "Hail Trump" and then that video goes viral and spreads all across Twitter and Facebook, that's a political problem for the president, but it's also a deeper problem for our country that any protester would talk that way.
There are protesters here, individuals that are outright racist and anti-Semitic. And then you have some that are just along for the ride, that just want to be a part of the spectacle. And it's worth noting not everybody in this group is necessarily an extreme racist. But, yes, some of them are. Some of the folks bringing the torches to campus last night are. It's a shame for Charlottesville, a beautiful town. I think anybody who's ever been there loves Charlottesville and feels for the town today as there was a lot of locals who were trying to make things better today by going out and denouncing the racists who visited their town.
ZELIZER: This touches on issues bigger than the protest. There have been ongoing debates about race from criminal justice to voting restrictions that have been imposed over the last few decades, to segregation and economic inequality that are all connected to what's being debated on the streets. And while most of the people here are fringe groups and the violence is not normative, this touches on a bigger question about is this nation doing enough to move forward on the issues of racial equality and justice that were not completed in the 1960s?
[14:15:04] SANCHEZ: All right, everyone, please stick around. I want to go very quickly to Kaylee Hartung. We are hearing that the reports that Brian alluded to earlier about a car ramming into people on the streets of Charlottesville. Kaylee, what are you hearing about that?
HARTUNG: Yes, Boris, we can now report that the Charlottesville police and the Virginia state police are on the scene of a three- vehicle accident at Water and Fourth Streets in downtown Charlottesville. This is just about a block off the downtown mall, the heart of the city. Multiple injuries are reported. A statement from the governor's office and state official says people should clear the area to allow emergency medical personnel to respond. The state will be releasing more information as they have it.
SANCHEZ: We will certainly keep an eye on that story and find out if this was just an accident or something perhaps more nefarious. Kaylee, thank you very much.
And stay with CNN. We're going to continue watching the unfolding events in Charlottesville, Virginia.
SANCHEZ: We are waiting to hear President Trump's remarks at the top of the hour where he is expected to sign a Veterans Affairs bill and potentially talk about the violence we've been watching this morning in Charlottesville. We will of course bring you his remarks live and the latest on these violent protests in Charlottesville.
I want to turn now to Kaylee Hartung who is in that area. We got reports just a few moments ago that a car had apparently run into a crowd. Then we got confirmation that it was apparently a three-car accident. Is it clear whether or not this was intentional, Kaylee? [14:20:12] HARTUNG: Boris, it's very unclear the circumstances of
this three-car accident. From two different eyewitnesses who saw it had varying accounts of what took place, but pedestrians were struck. They are saying there are multiple injuries reported. Again, we are unsure if these were protesters, counter-protesters, which side of this argument drivers of these vehicles fall on and which side the victims of these collisions fall on. But right now from our vantage point looking down from the downtown mall, you've got Virginia state police in their riot gear blocking off any access to the street corner where this incident took place. The city is asking to clear the area so that emergency medical personnel can respond. Just a few minutes ago I saw an ambulance pull up but then pull out of sight. Very hard for us to get an eye on exactly what the scene is like where this accident took place.
SANCHEZ: All right, Kaylee, please stay with us.
I want to now bring in CNN's law enforcement analyst Cedric Alexander. Sir, thanks so much for joining us. When you watch what is unfolding here, what are law enforcement trying to do now to process this scene and to try to figure out what exactly happened?
CEDRIC ALEXANDER, DEPUTY MAYOR OF ROCHESTER, NEW YORK: Well, they have quite a scene there as you can only imagine in what we see. This was a horrific account of where we are in this country that occurred this morning. And the police department there along with the state police of course caught right in the middle of it. And it's going to be interesting to see, quite frankly, going forward how they're going to go back and address this issue of things that they may have -- could have done to intervene earlier, and what those challenges may have been and what intelligence may have been gathered days before the rally last night and the unfortunate event we saw take place around this world today in Charlottesville.
SANCHEZ: Yes. Now, sir, I know we don't have all the information for what happened in this specific incident, but what kind of information are these investigators looking for to determine if this was intentional or not?
ALEXANDER: Well, I don't know if that's going to really be a role the police to make that determination as rather this was intentional or not. I think the bigger question is going to be for us is where we are in this country as it relates to these issues that are very clearly still unresolved.
SANCHEZ: I meant specifically about this car accident, but go on, sir.
ALEXANDER: But in regards to the car accident itself, if that's what you're speaking about specifically, we don't know. They will investigate witnesses, and of course those that were involved in that accident they're going to interview. And we don't know whether this was a nefarious act or just a lot of cars collided with each other in all this melee that was going on. So it may be a little too early to make that determination. SANCHEZ: Sure. Sir, I have to ask you as a man of color and as
someone steeped in law enforcement, how did you feel seeing those white nationalists, white supremacists, apparently armed with shields and flak vests and goggles and helmets, apparently homemade pepper spray? It was a very well-organized event or demonstration. How does that make you feel?
ALEXANDER: Well, I'm going to speak to it from two perspectives, one being a black man in America. I think if anybody, regardless of who you are, if you see those kind of images, certainly it takes you back through American history where you see Confederate flags, where you see people coming to what appeared to them to be a war, and it's all appeared to be centered around race.
But it's also centered around partisanship, which I can get to later. But I'm going to tell you it's a shameful, shameful day in this country and that community and that state for the world to see us acting out the way that we're acting out after all these years, and the progress certainly that has been made as we try to move forward under this current administration, as we have under others. So for me as an American, for me as a black man in America, and for all of us here in America regardless of who we are or where -- or what group we identify with, this is a very embarrassing and shameful day for all of us.
And I would implore to the president of the United States that we hope to hear from here very soon that he speaks very specifically, not generically, but specifically to this group and ask that they stop what they're doing. And to the anti-protesters that are out there, I would say to them as well is that we all have a shared responsibility at this very moment at this time in American history to do something very different than what we're demonstrating.
[14:25:00] We're not going to resolve these issues by what's going on. And we need a president at this very moment to come forth here very shortly and speak very specifically to the issues that are at hand and denounce David Duke and his statements, because it's not representative of the greatest majority of people in this country. And we have to be at a place at this very moment in time where we have to seek peace because we have bigger problems, as you well know in North Korea that we may have to confront and we have to confront these issues as a nation and a nation that is solid and bonded together to move forward.
SANCHEZ: Cedric Alexander, thank you so much for the time this Saturday. We hope you will stay with us throughout the day. Thank you, sir.
ALEXANDER: Thank you for having me.
SANCHEZ: And I hope you will stay with us as we wait for President Trump to speak at the top of the hour. We are going to be monitoring to see whether or not he discusses the events in Charlottesville.
Plus, breaking news in the Russia investigation. Special counsel Bob Mueller now reportedly in talks with the White House about interviewing officials. We have details on that just ahead.
[14:30:00] SANCHEZ: CNN is now working to confirm information in the latest breaking news from Charlottesville, Virginia, where a car apparently ran into a crowd following violent protests in the streets during a white nationalist demonstration. We are still waiting to get confirmation on exactly what happened there, as we are still waiting the president's remarks at the top of the hour where he is expected to sign a Veterans Affairs bill and potentially comment on these violent demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Meantime, we are still looking at the Russia probe and an indicator that that investigation is heating up. "The New York Times" is reporting that special counsel Robert Mueller is in talks to interview current and former West Wing staffers. Among those who may be called, the president's former chief of staff, the recently ousted Reince Priebus.
Let's bring back our panel, CNN political analyst Tara Palmeri, Julian Zelizer, a CNN political analyst as well, and CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter. Tara, what do you think about this latest development? Are some of these staffers likely to cooperate?
PALMERI: I would say so. They are no longer employed by the president of the United States anymore. And as we know, Trump values loyalty above all else. But who are they -- they don't have to be loyal to him anymore.
And this was always a story in Washington about why Priebus and Spicer, who Trump openly spoke negatively about, how they managed to stay on for so long. And the feeling in Washington was they know too much. We're in the middle of an intense probe, a special prosecutor is going into the White House. Every single person is a witness essentially. Maybe not so much at the lower levels, but eventually they will years into this now. But now you have two people outside of the White House who are -- their jobs are no longer on the line in terms of what they say.
SANCHEZ: And, Julian, to you, what kind of effect will these interviews potentially have on the president's agenda and his focus, whether it be with Veterans Affairs, with tax reform, health care reform, even with North Korea?
ZELIZER: Extremely disruptive as they've been, frankly, since January. It distracts the president literally away from dealing with those policy issues. It consumes the attention of the media and a lot of Washington, so it's hard to focus attention on something like cutting loopholes in the tax code. And finally, it makes members of Congress skittish, including Republicans about what's going to come next, what's the next shoe that's going to drop, and less likely to take a risk to support something the president wants. So this is yet another obstacle and challenge that he's going to face when Congress returns.
SANCHEZ: And, Brian, this investigation appears to be intensifying. You have this news today, and just a couple days ago Paul Manafort's home was raided. What do you think we'll see next?
STELTER: There's also been a sense reported by multiple media outlets that, yes, Mueller is moving at a very quick pace, being aggressive about this and trying to get to the bottom of the various pieces of the puzzle that he's investigating.
Remember, Mueller can go in a number of different directions, including into Manafort's finances and things like that. But what makes today's "New York Times" report so notable, and number one, it's a very significant leak about the investigation, and number two, the indication that Mueller wants to speak with Reince Priebus and also, according to "The Times," members of Trump's communications team, leads me to think that he's looking at incidents like the flight from Air Force One back from the G-20 when the president drafted and apparently finished a statement for his son Don Jr. about the Russian lawyer meeting. We know the president was involved in that misleading statement, and there's questions about who else was involved with that misleading statement. So that opened a door, that opened one of many doors for Mueller to walk through, and this "New York Times" report indicates that he indeed is walking in that direction.
PALMERI: Meanwhile they're trying to hire a communications director. Who wants to step into that job right now?
SANCHEZ: A highly coveted position I can imagine. Brian, Julian, and Tara, thank you so much for the time. We have to leave it there.
Please stay with us as we wait for President Trump to speak at the top of the hour. We will be monitoring to see if he discusses what happened in Charlottesville earlier today. Stay with CNN.
[14:38:16] SANCHEZ: We are following breaking news in Charlottesville, Virginia. We have some very graphic video to show you of that car that we had been talking about that we heard reportedly plowed into protesters. There were some questions about whether or not it was intentional. Just to warn you, this is very graphic video. We've removed the audio because it is vulgar. We will play the video for you as soon as we have it. I believe we have Brian Stelter with us. Brian, you've watched this video. Can you describe what you see in the video for us?
STELTER: That's right. This is coming from protesters and from journalists who were following along with the protesters. This happened, I believe, in the 1:00 p.m. hour. And now some of the victims are at local hospitals. What we don't know is how many were injured. We don't know exactly who was driving. But it's clear in the video, Boris, this is intentional, that this car tried to drive into a group of counter-protesters.
Now, what that means today, counter-protesters are the people that are protesting the white nationalists who came into Charlottesville, today for their own event. So these are counter-protesters. Some of them from the Democratic Socialists of America group, some of them from other groups trying to protest what they say are the racist and the anti-Semites that have come to town today in Charlottesville.
So they were walking through the downtown mall area. That's what you're seeing on screen here as well. The downtown mall, for those who have not been to Charlottesville, it's the main pedestrian plaza in Charlottesville. Mostly free of cars. You can walk around for many blocks. It's a beautiful part of town. In this downtown mall area is where this counter-protest was taking place. You see hundreds of people that were marching, holding up other posters and signs.
[14:40:00] At that point you see, the couple of cars are in the way. And one car in particular plows by and hits some of the protesters. In this video you'll see several people unfortunately hurled into the air by the force of the crash.
SANCHEZ: Let's go ahead and play the video now. Again, this is a very graphic video. If there are any children in the room, just be aware.
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SANCHEZ: And again, that is video of a vehicle in Charlottesville, Virginia that apparently rammed into a group of protesters, the protesters -- or rather counter-protesters. This video leads to the impression that this was an intentional act. There was some ambiguity before us as to whether or not this was, you know, meant to hurt people.
STELTER: Yes, there the car goes --
SANCHEZ: It very obviously is, Brian.
STELTER: And you see the car after it plows into that group of protesters, and this person holding their phone obviously reacts by moving the phone around. Then you see the car back up at a high rate of speed and go in the opposite direction. And you can see some of the damage to the vehicle there in that shot, damage to the front of the vehicle because of the force of the collision.
Now, you also see some of these folks who are gathered chasing after the vehicle, trying to chase after the driver and try to seek license plate information. We don't know yet if the police have been able to find this vehicle or find the driver. But from the videos, from folks on the scene, this does appear to be an intentional collision, someone trying to reach this counter-protest that was going on downtown, these people that were trying to speak out against the white nationalists at the Unite the Right rally.
Now we know some of the victims have been taken to local hospitals, but we don't yet have a count on the number of people injured. I can tell just from the videos and the other closer up videos several people injured, some of their bodies flung into the air by the force of the collision. And now we're waiting more information from local authorities.
SANCHEZ: The darkness in the heart of that driver is unspeakable. I want to get to Kaylee Hartung now. She is on the ground there. Kaylee, what are you hearing?
HARTUNG: Well, Boris, the police are keeping us at a distance from that scene that you can see in the video. But I just spoke to an eyewitness of what transpired after that video ends. After that Dodge Charger backed up and then sped off, he was pursued by police just a couple of blocks.
I have not been able to confirm with police yet that he was apprehended, but a witness to what transpired after that collision says that he does believe the driver was apprehended after police caught him. The car was moving very slowly, although it looks as if he sped off. As things began to unfold, a couple of city blocks, the car was not able to keep up at a very high speed, and the driver, I'm told by witnesses, was then apprehended.
Police are keeping us at a safe distance so that medical personnel can perform their duties on the victims of this incident. I have another eyewitness telling me they saw CPR being performed on one woman who was in very critical condition. We are waiting to learn how this will continue to play out.
SANCHEZ: Kaylee, please stay with us. Brian, if you're still there, I'm curious to get your perspective on this, because we constantly have these conversations in newsrooms about whether or not atrocities like this one are considered terrorism. What's your take?
STELTER: And I've seen some of the counter-protesters, some of the folks who were there on scene already saying this is terrorism, that's what you should call it.
I think before -- let's take a bit, let's find out more here, let's find out more about this driver and all of that. But in terms of the situation on the ground there, I noticed Katie Couric of Yahoo! is there and said she saw people being taken away in bad shape. Other journalists who were on the scene saying some of these injuries appeared very significant, and you heard Kaylee talking about CPR on at least one of the victims. We don't have any idea of the count of the number of casualties is yet, so authorities presumably trying to get that together now.
You know, whether you would call this terror or not, someone trying to instill terror or fear, this is clearly deliberate according to the videos that were posted by protesters and by journalists who were there. And this may be unfortunately a further escalation. This is not a day that's over in Charlottesville by any measure. There are protesters and counter-protesters still moving around the city.
And we're about to hear from President Trump in the next hour. I think it's significant that the president could have a calming influence if he so chooses on the day there in Charlottesville. And by the way, these other cars you see, the reason why you see other cars that appear to be hit or affected is because this car came at a high rate of speed into this intersection and pushed these other cars forward. That's what caused perhaps further damage to the vehicles and possibly other injuries as well.
[14:45:13] It was one car going at a high rate of speed into this group of protesters and then pushing against these other cars. And these people by the hundreds they were there in order to match the white nationalists who have come to Charlottesville for this so-called Unite the Right rally. Some members of alt-right groups, some outright racists, anti-Semitic individuals, coming there with Heil Hitler signs. And then others waving Confederate flags. Others who might say they're not white nationalists but there as part of the Unite the Right protest. Because they were in town, we've seen hundreds of counter-protesters flocking to Charlottesville, liberal groups, left leaning individuals, folks who want to speak out, some who identify as anti-fa, or antifascist. That's the protest that this car drove into last hour. Those victims now are at local hospitals.
SANCHEZ: Yes, this was said to be the largest hate gathering of its kind in decades in the U.S. according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Up to 6,000 people headed to that rally this afternoon. It was supposed to start at about noon near a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The city recently decided to get rid of that statue. And since then Charlottesville has become a hot bed, the epicenter of these white nationalists and white supremacists. Brian, obviously with this attack, or at least deliberate --
STELTER: It sure looks like a vehicular attack. I think that's right. Someone using a car as a weapon, that is something you've covered in other countries. There have been incidents of radical extremists in Britain and other countries using cars as weapons. This appears to be somebody, we don't know what their affiliation was, using their car as a weapon amid a day of chaos in Charlottesville. And as you said, it's not over yet. These protests continue throughout the afternoon.
SANCHEZ: Just moments ago the mayor of Charlottesville tweeted about the car crash, writing, quote, "I am fearless and heartsick by the car crash that has injured many. Please all go home to your families. We can work tomorrow." In all caps, "GO HOME PLEASE." Kaylee, are you seeing anything new on the ground? Are you hearing from officials there?
HARTUNG: The police on the scene here are very tight lipped about what is transpiring right now. There's a large presence surrounding the downtown mall. Their goal at this moment seems to be to keep that scene of the collision safe and to keep many of the people still wandering around away from a scene that needs medical attention for the victims involved in that collision.
A strong presence of the National Guard, Virginia state and local Charlottesville police continue to stand very vigilant along the downtown mall. But from all I can see from this vantage point it's very quiet. It's been, I'd say, about 20 minutes since we've seen a skirmish of any sort break out. But the fact that I can say it's been just 20 minutes since we've seen a skirmish break out and I'm standing in the middle of the downtown mall of Charlottesville, Virginia, that's a tough statement to make.
SANCHEZ: Let's bring back Cedric Alexander, the deputy mayor of Rochester, New York, someone with a law enforcement background. Sir, what do you make of what we just saw?
ALEXANDER: Well, it clearly from the video I think we all just looked at, that this was very deliberate. And you may have some very severe injuries out there. This is really very sad. This is really out of control. And there appears to be spurts of violence that is continuing to take place in that city. I think here again we need to encourage everyone to go home. Go home safely so that we can begin as a nation to find ways to resolve much of what has taken place here today. But that crash and a bit of self I think we can all see was very much deliberate. And you have a subject that is now somewhere out in the community, which I'm quite sure the local police throughout Virginia, and will be throughout this country will be looking for that vehicle here as time go on.
SANCHEZ: All right, Cedric, Brian, and Kaylee, thank you so much. Please stick around as we are set to hear from the president of the United States during a very, very tense time in Charlottesville, Virginia. That's just about 10 minutes away. Stay with us.
[14:53:16] SANCHEZ: Any moment now we are expecting to hear from President Trump as he speaks at a bill signing ceremony, a bill benefitting veterans. We're going to be watching to see if he talks about the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, whether during that melee in the street or this ugly, ugly incident with a car ramming into a crowd of counter-protesters.
The president already did tweet this, quote, "Am in Bedminster for meetings and press conference on Veterans Affairs and all that we have done and are doing to make it better, but Charlottesville, sad!" The first lady also tweeted this. "Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let's communicate without hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence."
CNN White House correspondent Athena Jones is in Bedminster, New Jersey, where the president is on a working vacation. And he is set to speak at any moment. Athena, what are you hearing about what the president might say? Is there any indication that he's aware of this latest development?
JONES: It's not clear yet, Boris, if they've been monitoring closely what's been on our air within the last few minutes with the car plowing through the crowd. But we do expect the president to address what's going on in Charlottesville when he speaks at about 3:00 for this bill signing that was already scheduled.
We certainly expect the journalists there covering that event to ask as many questions as they can of the president. As you mentioned, we did see him put out two tweets about what's happening in Charlotte, the most recent one saying -- Charlottesville, "Sad!" exclamation point. We've heard -- we've seen that sentence construction with the president referring to all sorts of other events as sad in the past. Certainly there are a lot of folks who want to hear him say more and want him to do more to condemn the white nationalists who organized the demonstration that has resulted in this level of violence.
[14:55:08] The tweet we saw from him last hour said simply, "We all must be united and condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Let's come together as one." But in neither that tweet nor his subsequent tweet did he mention, disavow, or condemn explicitly the white nationalist groups who organized this.
As you mentioned, we also saw a tweet later on, a few minutes after the president's, from Vice President Mike Pence saying that he echoes what the president had to say. I should mention too that the White House has told us that the White House has been in touch with the Virginia governor's office and his chief of staff. The president's homeland security advisor, Tom Bossert, his team has been in touch with local authorities, so they are monitoring these events. But we'll have to wait and see what the president says about what's going on in Charlottesville and whether he explicitly condemns the group that organized this march.
SANCHEZ: Athena, we have to leave it there. Thank you so much for that. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Boris Sanchez in for Fredricka Whitfield. Please stay with us as we wait for the president to speak in just a few moments. You saw the podium there, a country that is eager to hear some comforting words. Thanks again for joining us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. You're in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thanks for being with us. We are following multiple breaking news stories this hour. Any moment now we are expecting to hear from the president who announced via Twitter that he will be holding a news conference about the violence we've been seeing in Virginia, today the violence breaking out in the normally quiet college town of Charlottesville.
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CABRERA: Complete chaos on one side, white nationalists sporting symbols of the racist extreme right.