Militia force armed with assault rifles marches through US town ahead of white nationalist rally

Heavily-armed men in camouflage clothing and tactical gear have been filmed marching through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, ahead of a planned white nationalist rally.

The militia group was seen carrying military-style assault rifles with telescope sights and spare magazines, protective helmets, radios and knives. One appeared to be wearing a bandolier of shotgun shells and a second had spare handgun magazines; another had a Confederate flag patch on his vest.

Terry McAuliffe, Virginia’s Democratic governor, has placed the National Guard on standby for the “unite the right” rally on Saturday.

The rally, expected to draw thousands of conservative, white nationalist and so-called alt-right activists to the city’s Emancipation Park, is being held to protest against the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E Lee.

Separate footage showed protesters in a loose uniform of khaki trousers and white shirts carrying flags and chanting the Nazi-linked phrase “blood and soil” as they passed through the streets of Charlottesville.

Mr McAuliffe said on Friday: “Many of the individuals coming to Charlottesville tomorrow are doing so in order to express viewpoints many people, including me, find abhorrent.”

He urged people to stay away and “deny those ideas more attention than they deserve”.

On Friday night torch-wielding protesters descended on the University of Virginia’s Charlottesville campus, with some seen to throw Nazi salutes.

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