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Chanting 'blood and soil!' white nationalists with torches march on University of Virginia

Matt Pearce, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Chanting "blood and soil," "white lives matter" and "you will not replace us," scores of white nationalists holding torches marched across the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville on Friday night.

Scuffles broke out between them and a small group of counter-protesters calling themselves "anti-fascists" who were surrounded as they demonstrated in advance of Saturday's "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, which is expected to be one of the largest far-right gatherings in the U.S. in at least a decade.

Police soon cleared away the demonstrators, according to reporters at the scene.

"The fear we instill in them today only fuels our victory tomorrow," one rally supporter wrote on Twitter, in a message retweeted by Richard Spencer, one of the nation's most prominent white nationalists, who is attending the weekend's events in Virginia.

Spencer also tweeted a selfie, showing him smiling with the marchers' tiki torches in the background.

"I am safe. I am not fine," one of the counter-protesters, Emily Gorcenski, tweeted, saying that white nationalists had attacked her group. "What I just witnessed was the end of America."

Pictures and video of the nighttime march spread rapidly across social media, where many black and left-leaning Americans expressed disgust at the imagery, which to them recalled torch-lit Ku Klux Klan rallies of yesteryear.

"This is a disgrace," tweeted Martese Johnson, a black University of Virginia alumnus who gained notoriety in 2015 when he was bloodied by police as a student. "I do not believe this is happening on my university's campus." (The university is currently between its summer and fall semesters, when more students would be on campus.)

Charlottesville's mayor expressed outrage at the gathering of white nationalists, who at one point stopped to pay tribute to a statue of Thomas Jefferson, a founding father who owned slaves.

"When I think of candlelight, I want to think of prayer vigils," wrote Mayor Mike Signer in a Facebook post.

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