Donald Trump has condemned violence that broke out as far-right, white nationalists held a rally in Charlottesville, Virgina.
City, county and state authorities declared a state of emergency as clashes broke out between those demonstrating against plans to remove a statue honouring Confederate general Robert E Lee from a Charlottesville park and counter-protesters.
Mr Trump responded to the outbreak of violence ahead of the "Unite The Right" rally through Twitter, saying "we ALL must be united and condemn that hate stands for".
His message was posted shortly before it was confirmed that one person had been killed and several others injured when a car drove into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters.
We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2017
He stopped short of condemning the racism issue involved in the removal of the Civil War General's statue. The message was retweeted by the official Presidential Twitter account.
First Lady Melania Trump, who rarely tweets, also responded to condemn the violence in Virginia in a message on her official Twitter account.
Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let's communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence. #Charlottesville— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) August 12, 2017
Local media reported that riot police and the National Guard were ready to go in, but state police were already on the scene.
There have been reports of pepper spray being used by protesters on both sides as well as bottles being thrown and physical altercations taking place.
Earlier in the day there was video footage of alleged members of a militia marching through the streets of Charlottesville armed with assault rifles and wearing tactical gear. There have not been any reports of gunshots as yet.
Mr Trump also made a public address several hours after the protests began during a bill signing regarding the Veterans Administration while on his 17-day "working vacation" at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides".
He added, "it's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It's been going on for a long, long time," presumably referring to the issue of racism.
Mr Trump noted that "it has no place in America" and stressed the importance of "law and order and protection of innocent lives".
The President also said that he spoke with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and the two "agreed that the hate and division must stop...right now."
He said he wants Americans to come together with "love for our nation...and true affection for each other".
Mr Trump was known for what many called divisive and hateful rhetoric throughout the 2016 campaign and his first seven months in office.
He ended by saying "no matter our colour, creed, religion, or political party, we are all Americans first," adding that his administration was working to understand the situation in Charlottesville and "restore the sacred bonds of loyalty between the citizens and this nation".