Clashes erupt at ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Virginia

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Alt-right activists and counterprotesters flooded downtown Charlottesville on Saturday for the "Unite the Right" rally.

Several people were injured in violent clashes ahead of the start of the rally.

Virginia declared the gathering an unlawful assembly and ordered people to clear Emancipation Park or face arrest.

Earlier, police issued a local emergency amid the clashes. Police in riot gear stood shoulder-to-shoulder to try to disperse the large crowd.

By noon, thousands were expected in Emancipation Park, where barricades were placed in proximity to the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The rally came hours after a large group of torch-bearing white nationalists marched through the University of Virginia campus on Friday night.

Outraged by the city's plans to remove the trace of its Confederate past, alt-right activists and Ku Klux Klan members have come to the city in recent months.

The city has become ground zero for white nationalists, neo-Confederates and alt-right activists from across the country protesting the removal of Confederate monuments.

Police anticipate the rally will attract as many as 2,000 to 6,000 people and could be the "largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades in the United States," as described by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Approximately 1,000 law enforcement officers and first responders, including the largest deployment by Virginia State Police in 30 years will also be on site, Charlottesville city manager Maurice Jones said.