Local state of emergency declared after violent clashes at white nationalist protest

Alt-right white nationalist protesters violently clashed with counter-protesters on Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia, forcing local officials to declare a state of emergency.

The "Unite the Right" demonstrators, with alt-right and neo-Nazi leanings, first made waves late Friday night when they marched on the campus grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, wielding torches and chanting Nazi slogans including "blood and soil."

The protesters and their opponents clashed again on Saturday morning, ahead of a formal rally that had been scheduled to start at noon to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park in downtown Charlottesville.

Reports from the scene suggested protesters may have used tear gas on counter-protesters and that members of both sides threw water bottles at each other as they packed into a local park where the rally was scheduled to occur.

RELATED: See Friday night's protests at the University of Virginia

The Washington Post reported that at one point protesters swung wooden clubs as they crashed through a line of counter-protesters.

Counter-protest groups included at least one "Black Lives Matter" contingent. Many of the alt-right protesters included men in combat gear carrying firearms.

Local police initially did not move to break up the violent clashes, but eventually declared the event an unlawful assembly, ordering all to disperse or risk arrest.

Prior to the event the rally's organizer, Jason Kessler, successfully sued city officials who had sought to move the rally from the original location to a larger venue over concerns about crowd size.

Officials estimated between 2,000 and 6,000 people would attend the event at Emancipation Park before it began. The park was known as Lee Park before it was renamed Emancipation Park.

The "Unite the Right" demonstrators argue that Lee's contributions should not be erased.