President Trump comdemns violence on “many sides” as politicians decry domestic terrorist attack by 20 year old white nationalist.
A white nationalist killed a 32-year old woman by running his car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.
White nationalist groups planned the rally in response to the city’s plan to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Civil War general who fought for the Confederacy.
On Friday night, white nationalists marched through the University of Virginia with lit torches for a ‘Unite the Right’ rally while chanting “Heil Trump.”
Saturday the rally continued. White nationalist militias showed up with military style camo and long rifles. Confederate flags, swastikas, shields, and bats adorned the crowd that amassed in support for the ‘Unite the Right’ rally.
Counter-protesters showed up, represented by members of Black Lives Matter, the Antifa movement, the general public, and the clergy.
The police were present. But law enforcement did not come in the same militarized style they often wear when protests erupt in the wake of police shootings.
Violence broke out almost immediately.
Within hours, one woman was dead and more than 30 more people were injured.
Two police officers who were in a helicopter circling the protests died when their helicopter crashed a few miles away from the site, but it is unclear what caused the accident at this time.
The attack, which is reminiscent of the vehicle terror attacks that have happened in Europe and the Middle East, drew an instant reaction from both sides of the political aisle.
Lawmakers called out the protestors as racists, terrorists, and white nationalists, condemning their message and their movement.
Trump, who has never been afraid to call out groups by name, was uncharacteristically recalcitrant in his condemnation of the attack.
Talking to reporters, Trump said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.”
Trump’s refusal to call the attack terrorism, or to explicitly condemn white supremacy, prompted a backlash from his party, as well as Democrats.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) tweeted: “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) wrote in a Facebook post: “The Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies, bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred that they propagate.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) tweeted: “Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists.”
White nationalists at the rally chanted slogans such as “White Lives Matter” and “Jew Will Not Replace Us.”
In an interview with the Washington Post, one of the white nationalists told a reporter that one of the principles of conservative ideology is to “kill all Jews.”
There are a number of people in the Trump administration with ties to white nationalism.
Sebastian Gorka is a sworn member of Vitézi Rend, an anti-Semitic, quasi-Nazi Hungarian nationalist group, according to reporting by The Forward.
Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s presidential advisor, was the editor of Breitbart News and has described himself as a member of the Alt-Right.
Stephen Miller, a senior advisor in the Trump administration, has been cheered as a champion of white nationalism.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions could not be confirmed as a Federal Judge during Reagan’s administration because of questions about his views on racism, but he is the head of the Justice Department today.
A White House spokesperson said in a statement Sunday that the “of course” Trump condemns “white supremacists, KKK Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups.”
Police arrested the individual who drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. The Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into the attack.