President Trump condemns all racism ahead of anniversary of Charlottesville white supremacy violence

US President Donald Trump has acknowledged the anniversary of a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville that turned deadly last year.

The rally turned violent and Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old legal assistant, was struck and killed when a white supremacist slammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters.

Two Virginia state troopers also died when their surveillance helicopter crashed near the protests.

"I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence,’ and critics have slammed the wording, saying it was just an offshoot of blaming ‘both sides," Trump wrote on Twitter.

At the time, Trump had blamed both sides for the violence. 

"You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides," Trump said.

White nationalists are again planning the rally this year outside the president’s home in Washington D.C.  A large counterprotest is also scheduled.

Authorities in Charlottesville say they have seized prohibited items such as brass knuckles as hundreds of people have passed through security checkpoints leading into the city's downtown area.

A news release from the city Saturday afternoon (US time) said several hundred people had made their way through the perimeter that was established at 8 a.m.

The city says law enforcement at the access points are conducting consensual checks for objects that were banned as a security measure during the weekend anniversary of last summer's violence.

The news release says individuals can refuse the searches but unsearched bags or packages won't be allowed inside.

The city tweeted just before 2:30 p.m. that two arrests had been made so far Saturday.

A 28-year-old North Carolina man was arrested for trespassing and a 64-year-old man from surrounding Albemarle County, Virginia, was arrested for disorderly conduct.

The city says each man was released on a misdemeanor summons.

Police blocked off streets and mobilised hundreds of officers for the anniversary of white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Tight security measures are in place for the anniversary of last summer's violence. Source: Associated Press

The security measures alarmed activists but reassured others who said they have painful memories of last year's chaos.

Local and state authorities framed the weekend's heightened security as a necessary precaution.

Late Saturday morning, when many businesses in a popular downtown shopping district were beginning to open, law enforcement officers outnumbered visitors.

Concrete barriers and metal fences had been erected, and police were searching bags at two checkpoints where people could enter or leave.

Nearby, dozens of officers carrying helmets and with gas masks strapped to their belts stood watch in the park where hundreds of white nationalists gathered last summer at a rally planned in part to protest the city's plans to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee.

The event descended into violence, with clashes erupting between attendees and counterprotesters.

Some community activists were concerned that this year's heavy police presence could be a counterproductive overreaction.

An independent investigation of the rally violence, led by a former federal prosecutor, found the chaos stemmed from a passive response by law enforcement and poor preparation and coordination between state and city police.

Lisa Woolfork, a University of Virginia professor and Black Lives Matter Charlottesville organiser, said police are mounting a "huge, overwhelming show of force to compensate for last year's inaction."

"Last year, I was afraid of the Nazis. This year, I'm afraid of the police," Woolfork said. "This is not making anyone that I know feel safe."

But some business owners and downtown visitors said Saturday they were comforted by the security measures.

"It's nice that they're here to protect us," said Lara Mitchell, 66, a sales associate at Ten Thousand Villages, a shop that sells artwork, jewelry, and other items.

Kyle Rodland, 35, took his young sons to get ice cream downtown late Saturday morning.

Rodland said he felt much safer than last year, when he left town with his family and stayed with his parents after seeing people armed with long rifles walking around outside his home.

Saturday marked the anniversary of a march by torch-toting white supremacists a day ahead of the larger event in downtown. The group paraded through the University of Virginia's campus, shouting racist and anti-Semitic slogans.

On Saturday morning, the university hosted a "morning of reflection and renewal," with musical performances, a poetry reading and an address from University President James Ryan.

Ryan recalled how a group of students and community members faced off against the white supremacists near a statue of Thomas Jefferson on campus, calling it a "remarkable moment of courage and bravery."

Later Saturday evening, students and activists planned to hold a "Rally for Justice" on campus.

Other events were also planned throughout the weekend, including on Sunday, the anniversary of the violence that erupted on the streets of Charlottesville.

After authorities had forced the clashing crowds of of white supremacists and counterprotesters to disperse, a car plowed into a crowd, killing 32-year-old counterprotester Heather Heyer.

James Fields Jr., 21, of Maumee, Ohio, is charged in state court with murder in Heyer's killing and also faces separate hate crime charges in federal court.

The day's death toll rose to three when a state police helicopter that had been monitoring the event and assisting with the governor's motorcade crashed, killing two troopers.

Jason Kessler, the primary organiser of last summer's rally, sued the city of Charlottesville after it refused to issue him a permit for another event this weekend. However, Kessler dropped his lawsuit last week and vowed to forge ahead with plans for a "white civil rights" rally Sunday in Washington, D.C.

On Wednesday, Gov. Ralph Northam and the city both declared states of emergency, citing the "potential impacts of events" in Charlottesville during the anniversary weekend. The state's declaration allocates $2 million in state funds and authorises the Virginia National Guard to assist in security efforts.

The city closed downtown streets and public parks and restricted access to a downtown "security area," where visitors were prohibited from wearing masks or carrying certain items, including skateboards, catapults, glass bottles, bats and knives.

Virginia State Police Superintendent Gary Settle said more than 700 state police will be activated during the weekend.

President donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House. Photo: Tom Brenner/The New York Times
President donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House. Source: (C) 2018 THE NEW YORK TIMES



Californian firefighters make significant progress in battle against blaze south of LA

Firefighters made significant progress trying to tamp down a wildfire that threatened homes and has been raging for days south of Los Angeles, officials said Saturday (US time).

Aircraft have been making flight after flight, dumping water and bright pink retardant to protect Lake Elsinore and other foothill communities as the fire sweeps through the dense, bone-dry brush of the Cleveland National Forest.

The Holy Fire - named for Holy Jim Canyon, where it began Monday - grew to nearly 33 square miles (85 square kilometers) by Saturday morning. But firefighters also made progress, with containment rising from 10 to 29 percent.

High temperatures and dry grass and brush have made it difficult for firefighters to get a handle on the blaze.

Some hillsides were being allowed to burn under the watchful eyes of firefighters as a way to reduce fuel and make it harder for flames to jump roadways into communities if winds pick up again.

Although the fire burned a dozen forest cabins early on, only one home was lost Thursday as fire crews managed to fend off flames that stalked downhill and came right up to yards.

On Saturday, officials allowed some residents to return to their homes in Lake Elsinore, but others still remained under evacuation orders.

The man accused of deliberately starting the fire appeared in court on Friday, but his arraignment was postponed.

Forrest Clark, 51, made several outbursts, claiming his life was being threatened and saying the arson charge against him was a lie. A court commissioner ordered his bail to remain at $1 million.

The Holy Fire was one of nearly 20 blazes across California, which is seeing earlier, longer and more destructive wildfire seasons because of drought, warmer weather attributed to climate change and home construction deeper into forests.

A fire that broke out near the communities of Fairfield and Vacaville had destroyed a home and two other structures, according to the Vacaville Fire Department. A firefighter suffered a minor injury battling the blaze, which grew to about 2.6 square miles (6.9 sq. kilometers) and was 70 percent contained by Saturday afternoon, officials said.

The largest fire ever recorded in California - the Mendocino Complex - is burning north of Sacramento and has destroyed 119 homes but none in recent days.

The fire had reached 508 square miles (1,315 sq. kilometers) and was 67 percent contained by Saturday.

The two-week-old Carr Fire that killed six people and burned more than 1,000 homes was 55 percent contained.

Firefighters Ryan Foley, center, and Andrew Arthen with San Bernardino Cal Fire make a stand in front of an advancing wildfire as they protect a home Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, in Lake Elsinore, Calif. Firefighters on Friday are protecting foothill neighborhoods in the city of Lake Elsinore near where the blaze flared up amid unpredictable winds a day earlier. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Firefighters fighting the blaze that has been raging for days in California. Source: Associated Press

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Man charged after killing four, including two police officers, in Canadian shooting

Canadian police charged a man today for the deaths of two police officers and two civilians in a shooting that struck a nerve in a country that has been roiled in recent months by several instances of mass violence.

Police in the eastern city of Fredericton, New Brunswick said that Matthew Vincent Raymond, 48, was arrested and charged with four counts of first-degree murder.

Horizon Health, which delivers care for New Brunswick's Department of Health, said that Raymond was the only person being treated for injuries related to the shooting. He is due to appear in court August 27.

The victims have been identified as police Const. Robb Costello, 45, police Const. Sara Burns, 43, Donnie Robichaud, 42, and Bobbie-Lee Wright, 32.

Robichaud and Wright were in a relationship, according to Facebook and Robichaud's cousin, Sean Callahan, who said they had just gotten together at the beginning of August.

No motive has been disclosed, and police said they were working to determine a link between the gunman and the couple.

Police said Costello and Burns were responding to calls of shots fired at an apartment complex and saw two deceased civilians before being shot and killed themselves.

Fredericton police Chief Leanne Fitch said Raymond used a long gun and was in an elevated position when he fired. Fitch said he was shot by police and was in serious but stable condition.

Judith Aguilar, an office manager for Sunfield Apartment Rentals, said Raymond lived in the complex for about four months and was an avid cyclist who often came to pay his rent in cash while wearing a bike helmet.

"He seemed like a very normal and pleasant person, really," she said. "He's tall and was in fairly good shape because he biked everywhere."

At one point, she said maintenance workers needed to do some work in his apartment and he didn't want the workers there while he wasn't present.

"He seemed concerned, he said he had an expensive computer and an expensive bike," she said. "They didn't even have to go all the way into the apartment, they were just fixing his doorframe at the time."

Residents were stunned by the episode, which took place in a city of 60,000 that last saw a homicide in 2014.

But the shooting comes as Canada wrestles with a string of violence, including an instance in Toronto last month where a man with a handgun opened fire in a crowded part of the city, killing two people and wounding 13 before he died in the confrontation.

In April, a man who linked himself to a misogynistic online community used a van to run down pedestrians in a busy part of Toronto, killing 10 people and injuring 14.

Authorities are also still pursuing leads in an ongoing investigation of a serial killer who has been charged with killing eight men in the city in recent years.

In 2014, a shooting in Moncton, New Brunswick left three Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers dead and two wounded.

Police officers and RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) survey the area of a shooting in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada on Friday, August 10 2018.
Police officers and RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) survey the area of a shooting in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada on Friday, August 10 2018. Source: Associated Press