SKOWHEGAN — Thunder boomed around noon Sunday as protesters assembled on the Margaret Chase Smith bridge in Skowhegan to oppose the bigotry that led to deadly clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, a day earlier.

Protesters emerged from their vans and cars with placards saying “Black Lives Matter,” “No to White Supremacy” and “R.I.P. Heather Heyer,” the 32-year-old woman who died after a car was driven through a crowd of counterprotesters in Charlottesville.

“Her blood is on his hands,” Greg Williams of Farmington said of Heyer and the man later identified as the driver of the car.

“It’s Nazis – it’s coming from Nazis. Every one of those guys, those alt-right nationalists and supremacists, are the opposite of American patriotism. The absolute opposite. They are traitors to our Constitution,” he said.

Heyer was killed and two Virginia State Police officers died in a helicopter crash in connection with marches by right-wing groups who had come to Charlottesville to rally against the removal of Confederate monuments.

They chanted anti-Jewish, anti-immigration and anti-black slogans. The white nationalists and counterprotesters clashed in skirmishes, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency and the National Guard to join police in clearing the area.

Lisa Savage of Solon, who helped organize Sunday’s protest on the bridge, said President Trump is an effect of bigotry in America, not the cause.

“The rise of the hate groups is also an effect of right-wing propaganda stirring up discontented, underemployed people whose lives will not be better than those of their parents,” she said. “It’s an old strategy. Familiar.”

Dale Riddle of Australia, who is visiting family in Maine, was on the bridge Sunday, and had a sign asking passersby to “stand with Charlottesville” and oppose racism.

“We don’t need any racism – it’s crazy,” he said. “I don’t want to mention Trump. He’s not helping.”

Trump on Saturday condemned the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides – on many sides,” without naming the white nationalist groups that sparked the violence in Charlottesville.

The Department of Justice announced that it was opening a civil rights investigation into “the circumstances of the deadly vehicular incident,” to be conducted by the FBI, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, and the department’s Civil Rights Division.

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

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