View from the street: Police stood by as adversaries fought

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — It started with threats, taunting and racial slurs, and escalated to total pandemonium — hand-to-hand combat in the streets of Charlottesville.

White nationalists and counterdemonstrators threw punches, screamed, set off smoke bombs. They hurled water bottles, balloons of paint, containers full of urine. They unleashed chemical sprays. Some waved Confederate flags. Others burned them.

I watched, notebook in hand, as people gasped for breath and clutched at their swollen eyes, burning from pepper spray or mace.

And for more than an hour — as I roamed what looked like a battle scene, along with AP photographer Steve Helber — authorities mostly watched from the fringes.