Saturday, August 12, 2017

Violent Rally in Charlottesville

The Unite the Right rally was a militant gathering of alt-right, neo-Nazi, white nationalist, and far-right groups in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 11 and 12, 2017. The participants protested the removal of Confederate monuments and memorials from public spaces, specifically the Robert Edward Lee Sculpture in Emancipation Park.

Speakers scheduled to appear included Tim Treadstone, David Duke, Richard Spencer, Mike Enoch, and League of the South founder Michael Hill. Speakers claimed that Jews are ruining the West, and hailed Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler. During the rally, David Duke stated that the rally intended to fulfill the "promises of Donald Trump." During the rally, a car plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a woman and injuring 19 others, five critically. At least 19 people were injured in "street brawls" and other violence at the rally. A police helicopter monitoring the response to the rally violence crashed, killing the two troopers on board.

Witnesses described the violence as having originated from white nationalists.


On May 15, 2017, a similar protest occurred against the city's plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a downtown park, which was led by Richard Spencer. The event involved protesters holding torches near the statue. That same night, a candlelight counter-protest took place which included Black Lives Matter supporters.

The rally occurred when the University of Virginia was between its summer and fall semesters. On August 4, University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan sent an e-mail to students and faculty, which said, "I urge students and all UVA community members to avoid the August 12 rally and avoid physical confrontation generally. There is a credible risk of violence at this event, and your safety is my foremost concern."

Following the Rally

In an address later in the day following the rally, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, flanked by Charlottesville mayor Michael Signer, and Charlottesville's police chief, directly addressed the "white supremacists and Nazis who came into Charlottesville today," stating: "Our message is plain and simple: Go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you. You pretend that you are patriots, but you are anything but patriots. ...We are stronger than you... You will not succeed. There is no place for you here."

Signer said he was disgusted that white supremacists came to his town and faulted President Donald Trump for inflaming racial tensions during his 2016 campaign, stating: "I'm not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you're seeing in America today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president."

Following the rally, UVA president Teresa A. Sullivan condemned the "senseless violence" at the rally and asked university community members to help protect "The safety and well-being of all members of our community... by staying off the streets tonight as our public safety officials work to maintain order and offer assistance to those who are in need."

Trump responded by saying: "We all must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Let's come together as one!" He added that he condemned "in the strongest possible terms" what he called an "egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides." Trump added that "What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order."

Trump did not specifically denounce white nationalists or white supremacists, and his "many sides" comment was criticized as insufficient by both Democratic and Republican members of Congress. The Congressional Black Caucus stated that that Trump's "false equivalency, dog whistles are sad. White supremacy is to blame." Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Cory Gardner, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, John McCain, Rob Portman, and Marco Rubio all called upon Trump to specifically condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis; Gardner stated: "Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism." Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring stated: "The violence, chaos, and apparent loss of life in Charlottesville is not the fault of 'many sides.' It is racists and white supremacists."

Former Ku Klux Klan Klan leader David Duke wrote in response that Trump should "take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists." The website Daily Stormer, which promoted the rally, praised Trump's response, writing "He didn't attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us.”


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