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Senators and other elected officials from both parties joined in denouncing the violence in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday after clashes between white supremacist marchers and counter protesters left at least one person dead and more than 30 injured. A number of them implicitly, or even explicitly, said President Trump’s response to the incident did not go far enough in opposing white supremacists and right wing extremism.
Shortly after a car drove into a crowd of counter protesters, Trump, who has been reluctant to rebuke the actions of his extremist supporters in the past, gave a statement responding to the “terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville,” telling reporters at his golf club in New Jersey, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”
A White House official later told to Yahoo News, “The president was condemning hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides,” adding that, “There was violence between protesters and counter protesters today.”
The president’s failure to specifically speak out against white supremacists and other far right extremists, who had descended on Charlottesville for a “Unite the Right” rally to protest the planned removal of a Confederate statue in this relatively moderate university town, drew criticism from within his own party.
Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism. https://t.co/PaPNiPPAoW
— Cory Gardner (@SenCoryGardner) August 12, 2017
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 12, 2017
That was a theme echoed by Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer:
Of course we condemn ALL that hate stands for. Until @POTUS specifically condemns alt-right action in Charlottesville, he hasnt done his job
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) August 12, 2017
Others, without mentioning Trump specifically, went out of their way to criticize white supremacy and nationalist extremism.
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) August 12, 2017
What " WhiteNatjonalist" are doing in Charlottesville is homegrown terrorism that can't be tolerated anymore that what Any extremist does
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) August 12, 2017
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. -OGH
— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) August 12, 2017
JUST IN: Sen. John McCain on Charlottesville attack: "White supremacists and neo-Nazis are, by definition, opposed to American patriotism" pic.twitter.com/I8XpsvWq2x
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 12, 2017
— Rep. Charlie Dent (@RepCharlieDent) August 12, 2017
White supremacists, Neo-Nazis and anti-Semites are the antithesis of our American values. There are no other "sides" to hatred and bigotry.
— Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (@RosLehtinen) August 12, 2017
The racist white supremacist actions in Charlottesville are completely horrendous. We should all condemn them in the strongest of terms.
— Pete Sessions (@PeteSessions) August 12, 2017
These people are utterly revolting–and have no understanding of America. This creedal nation explicitly rejects "blood & soil" nationalism. https://t.co/TPzYnLh3OB
— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) August 12, 2017
Meanwhile, the president’s comments on Charlottesville received mixed reviews from the so-called alt-right, the loosely connected movement of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other far right extremists that gained national recognition as supporters of then-candidate Trump during the 2016 presidential election.
Following a tweet in which Trump called for Americans to “condemn all that hate stands for” and “come together as one,” former KKK Grand Wizard and Trump supporter David Duke replied: “I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.”
I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists. https://t.co/Rkfs7O2Ykr
— David Duke (@DrDavidDuke) August 12, 2017
So, after decades of White Americans being targeted for discriminated & anti-White hatred, we come together as a people, and you attack us? https://t.co/Rkfs7O2Ykr
— David Duke (@DrDavidDuke) August 12, 2017
Prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer, who was slated to speak at Saturday’s rally, took issue with another Trump tweet, expressing “deepest condolences to the families & fellow officers of the VA State Police” who died in a helicopter crash not far from the route of the march. The cause of the crash was unknown.
Trump should not have praised the state and local police.
They did the opposite of their job. Total disaster. #Charlottesville
— Richard ☝Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) August 12, 2017
However the Daily Stormer, the neo-Nazi site best known for launching a “troll storm” against the Jewish residents of Spencer’s Montana hometown, was pleased with Trump’s failure to specifically condemn white nationalists.
“No condemnation at all,” reads part of a post on Trump’s comments from the Daily Stormer’s liveblog of the events in Charlottesville. “When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room…Really, really good….God bless him.”
Up to 6,000 people were expected to gather in Charlottesville for Saturday’s rally, which the Southern Poverty Law Center warned earlier this week, was “shaping up to be the largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades in the United States.”
Fights began breaking out Friday night as counter protesters confronted rally-goers marching with torches on the University of Virginia campus. On Saturday, continued clashes in Charlottesville prompted Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to declare a state of emergency, as city officials ultimately deemed the rally an unlawful assembly, leading police to arrest several protesters as they cleared the park where the event was slated to take place.
At a press conference Saturday evening, McAuliffe issued a message directly to those who’d come to participate in Saturday’s rally: “Go home… You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you.”
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