McAuliffe: Protesters were better armed than state troopers

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Governor Terry McAuliffe was to the point and not mincing words Monday morning speaking in Norfolk to Southern Transportation officials.

“This isn’t the first and won’t be the last,” said McAuliffe. “They came armed. They were armed better than my own state police. They had body armor, helmets and were walking around our beautiful city of Charlottesville with semi-automatic rifles.”

McAuliffe says he watched in horror as violence hit the streets. Thirty-five people were injured — most of them when a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters. One woman was killed.

“Heather Heyer, 32-years-old, was in the prime of her life,” McAuliffe said.

The governor says officials have to come together and recognize that there is now place for what he calls “evil.”

“It is a very small minority of Americans who did this, but my message to them is get out of Virginia,” McAuliffe said. “I would also say get out of America, because you don’t belong here. They pretended they were patriots. They aren’t patriots. They were anything but. They are dividing our great country. This hatred and bigotry has no place for it in America.”

The governor also talked about the two state troopers — Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, 40 — who died in a helicopter crash flying over the city. He called them heroes and close friends who served on his security detail.

“They were doing what they loved to do,” McAuliffe said.

Governor McAuliffe tells 10 On Your Side he wants to look at the permit process and see if there are ways to stop this from happening again.

“I just don’t understand the hatred, but we need to use this opportunity to come together to reconcile and to continue to work together,” McAuliffe added. “This isn’t the first and it’s not going to be the last time they do this.”

McAuliffe says he has heard about potential alt-right rallies in Charlottesville, Lexington and Richmond in September. He said he will work with localities to make sure citizens are protected.

Meantime, local residents who were in Charlottesville on Saturday are sharing their accounts and calling for unity.

“It’s hard to understand how that sort of thing takes place in the United States in 2017,” said Lucy Maurer, of Gloucester County. “I kept thinking ‘is this what a war zone sounds like?’”

Maurer tagged along with a group called the Socialist Snack Squad, or the Care Bears, to hand out water and food to counter protesters.

Sunday, she spoke out during the Middle Peninsula Against Hate rally, where she called on people to “stand beside” minorities.

“We no longer have the option to just sit back and say ‘this is somebody else’s problem.’ It’s not somebody else’s problem, it’s all of our problem, we’re all in this together and we’ve got to stick together.”

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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