'Be careful and peaceful': Mother's plea to son accused of ramming US protesters

The mother of a man charged with second-degree murder after one person was killed when a car ploughed into a crowd during a protest in the US town of Charlottesville said she told him to be “careful and peaceful” at the rally.

Samantha Bloom, of Ohio, confirmed details about her son James Alex Fields Jr’s car and his trip to Virginia, saying she received a text from him last week that said he was taking time off work to attend the rally.

She said her son had not given her any details about the rally but that she told him "to be careful" and to be peaceful.

“I told him to be careful,” Ms. Bloom said, according to the Toledo Blade.

“[And] if they’re going to rally to make sure he’s doing it peacefully.”

The car that allegedly ploughed through a crowd of protestors marching through downtown Charlottesville, Virginia and James Alex Fields Jr (inset). Picture: Getty/Charlottesville Police

Bloom became visibly upset as she learned that dozens of people were injured during a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.

“I thought it had something to do with Trump... I try to stay out of his political views,” she said. “I don’t get too involved.”

One person was run down and killed while white nationalists clashed with counter-demonstrators, and 19 others were injured in the incident.

The victim has since been named as 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Her friends have said she is a “victim of hate”.

A car ploughed into a crowd of nationalists and counter demonstrators in Virginia. Photo: AP

The deadly ramming brings the total number of deaths from the day’s events in Virginia to three after a police helicopter assisting with the rally crashed outside the town, killing two state troopers.

Three others have also been arrested in connection to the planned rally, Virginia State Police have confirmed.

The police helicopter crashed on the way to the city's downtown, killing lieutenant H Jay Cullen, 48, and trooper-pilot Berke M M Bates.

The clashes on Saturday morning prompted the governor to declare an emergency and halt a rally over removing a Confederate general's statue from a public park.

People place flowers at a makeshift memorial during a vigil for those who were injured and died. Picture: Getty/Win McNamee

Riot police ordered people out of the city.

Charlottesville Police identified the alleged killer driver as James Alex Fields Jr, of Maumee, Ohio.

He has been charged with second-degree murder and also faces three counts of malicious wounding and one count of failing to stop, the NBC reported.

Others arrested in connection with the rally include Troy Dunigan, 21, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, who was charged with disorderly conduct; Jacob L Smith, 21, of Louisa, Virginia, was charged with misdemeanour assault and battery; and James M O’Brien, 44, of Gainesville, Florida, was charged with carrying a concealed handgun.

The FBI said it would open a civil rights investigation into the deadly crash.

Tensions in the city intensified when the vehicle ploughed into a crowd of people gathered in a street two blocks from the Emancipation Park.

It was not clear whether this incident was connected to the earlier confrontations.

A number of videos have emerged showing the Chrysler Charger ram into the crowd of marchers before reversing backwards and speeding away from the scene.

"I am heartbroken that a life has been lost here," Charlottesville Mayor Mike Singer said on his Twitter feed.

Demonstrators gathered holding torches earlier in the day. Photo Reuters

"I urge all people of good will - go home." He did not give details of who died and what caused the death.

"I am praying that God help us all," Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy said in an interview with CNN. "We are better than this."

An injured person is treated after the incident. Photo: AP

US President Donald Trump spoke against the violence, at a news conference.

"We're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides."

One person has died after nationalists clashed with counter-demonstrators and a car ploughed into the crowds. Photo: AP

"We must ALL be united and condemn all that hate stands for," Trump wrote in a Twitter message. "There is no place for this kind of violence in America."

Officials had approved the protest march in downtown Charlottesville but cancelled the event and declared a state of emergency after outbreaks of violence.

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