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White Nationalist Richard Spencer Leads Torch-Carrying Crowd in Charlottesville

by Kurt Chirbas, F. Brinley Bruton and Alex Johnson /  / Updated 
Image: Richard Spencer leaves the area in front of the Lincoln Memorial surrounded by bodyguards after self proclaimed "White Nationalists," white supremacists and "Alt-Right" activists gathered at the memorial in Washington, on June 25, 2017.
White Nationalist and supremacist leader Richard Spencer leaves the area in front of the Lincoln Memorial surrounded by bodyguards after self proclaimed "White Nationalists," white supremacists and "Alt-Right" activists gathered at the memorial in Washington, on June 25, 2017.Jim Bourg / Reuters

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Charlottesville, Virginia, is exploring giving police more intelligence-gathering powers after torch-carrying white nationalists again marched near the University of Virginia, city leaders said Sunday.

White nationalist Richard Spencer and about 40 to 50 other people held another "tiki-torch rally" Saturday that lasted about 10 minutes, police said. The group gathered in the recently renamed Emancipation Park around the tarp-covered statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, which the city has decided to move.

While "no disorders occurred during this rally," according to a police statement, the event drew condemnation from political leaders.

The city government said in a statement Sunday that Charlottesville officials are working to develop an internal task force "to prevent future re-occurrences." Among the steps under review are measures to equip police "with the capacity to sustain the monitoring and gathering of intelligence."

Details could be revealed Nov. 6, when the City Council will be debate its legislative package to the Virginia General Assembly, the statement said.

Mayor Mike Signer called it a "despicable visit by neo-Nazi cowards. You're not welcome here! Go home!"

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe tweeted: "We are monitoring this situation as we continue to oppose these racists and their message of hate."

Spencer, a graduate of the university, and his group then left the park, boarded a tour bus at another location and left the city, police said. Officers followed the bus to ensure that the group was leaving the area.

The city's decision to move the statue this summer prompted a larger group of white nationalists to rally on Aug. 11, during which they marched through the university carrying torches and chanting racial slurs.

The following day, on Aug. 12, a much bigger gathering of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other hate groups descended into chaos, with attendees and anti-racist counter-protesters brawling in the streets. After authorities forced the crowd to disperse, a car allegedly driven by one of the white nationalists rammed into a group of people protesting the white nationalists, killing counter-demonstrator Heather Heyer and injuring many more.

President Donald Trump was pilloried for his initial response to the August events, which included condemning bigotry and violence "on many sides."

On Sept. 14, Trump signed a resolution passed by Congress condemning white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other hate groups.

Spencer popularized the term "alt-right" — an umbrella term for white nationalists and other proponents of far-right ideas — and has espoused racist and anti-Semitic views, calling for "peaceful ethnic cleansing."

A video of him yelling "hail Trump" and saluting attendees at a conference in Washington, D.C., shortly after Trump's election went viral last year, although Spencer later claimed he was being "ironic."

CORRECTION (Oct. 8, 1:40 p.m.) : An earlier version of this article misstated the location of Emancipation Park in Charlottesville. It is near the University of Virginia, not on campus.

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