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Alt-right activists protested the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from what is now called Emancipation park in Charlottesville, Virginia today. White activist Jason Kessler organized the Unite the Right rally, and Richard Spencer and Tim Gionet are attending.

Last night, hundreds of alt-right supporters marched onto the lawn of the University of Virginia, bearing torches and chanting "white lives matter" and "you will not replace us."

The main Unite the Right event took place this morning. Anti-fascist and Black Lives Matter activists among other anti-fascist and anti-racist groups held counter protests during the rally. Kessler has encouraged protestors to avoid violence, but to prepare to defend themselves.

Airbnb has cancelled several reservations made by those planning to attend the rally, telling NBC29, "When throughout background check processes or from input of our community we identify and determine that there are those who would be pursuing behavior on the platform that would be antithetical to the Airbnb Community Commitment, we seek to take appropriate action including, as in this case, removing them from the platform."

Members of anti-fascist and anti-racist groups were also on the scene last night and several fights broke out at the foot of the Thomas Jefferson statue. Police broke up the fights and sent protestors away. Witnesses on twitter and in live YouTube videos claimed that chemicals were dispersed.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Last night's march was sparked by a federal judge ruling that the Unite the Right rally could go on in Emancipation park as planned, according to Fox News. City officials had announced earlier this week that the protest must be moved to a different park further from the downtown area as they expect thousands of protestors to show up. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia and Rutherford Institute, filed an injunction early Friday, demanding that the rally continue as planned and won.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has ordered members of the National Guard to be on standby at the event today, and declared a state of emergency after things turned violent. He said in a statement, "Men and women from state and local agencies will be in Charlottesville [on Saturday] to keep the public safe, and their job will be made easier if Virginians, no matter how well-meaning, elect to stay away from the areas where this rally will take place."

Sounds familiar: The KKK held a similar, torch-bearing protest in the beginning of July, which was met with 1,000 counter protestors and resulted in 23 arrests.

Go deeper

New report hits DOJ over lack of police shooting data

Demonstrations followed the shooting of Dijon Kizzee by Los Angeles Sheriff's deputies in 2020. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

A new government accountability report says the Department of Justice failed to consistently publish an annual summary of police excessive force data from 2016 to 2020, as required by federal law.

Why it matters: The data is crucial for the DOJ to monitor excessive force cases, and used to investigate law enforcement agencies with patterns of abuse. The DOJ can pivot off it to pursue court action to force reforms.

18 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Congressional leaders clinch support for crucial defense bill, debt limit votes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer passes waiting reporters on Tuesday. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Congress has found a shortcut to pass its annual defense funding bill and raise the debt limit.

Driving the news: The House will vote Tuesday night on two major bills — one creating a one-time, fast-track process for the Senate to raise the debt ceiling with just 51 votes, and another passing its annual defense bill.

Biden's pick to lead major banking regulator drops out

Saule Omarova, nominee for Comptroller of the Currency, at a confirmation hearing on Nov. 18. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Biden's pick to head one of the country's most powerful banking regulators is dropping out of consideration for the post, according to a statement from Biden that accepted the withdrawal.

Why it matters: Saule Omarova, nominated to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, faced a tough path to confirmation — with opposition from Republicans and moderate Democrats.

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