Washington (AFP) - An organizer of a notorious white nationalist rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia, nearly two years ago said it would not have taken place had Donald Trump not become president.
"There is no question that Charlottesville wouldn't have occurred without Trump," Richard Spencer, a leader of the so-called "alt-right," said in an interview with The Atlantic magazine.
"It really was because of his campaign and this new potential for a nationalist candidate who was resonating with the public in a very intense way," Spencer said.
"The alt-right found something in Trump," he said. "He changed the paradigm and made this kind of public presence of the alt-right possible."
A 21-year-old neo-Nazi is serving life in prison after driving his car into a group of counter-protestors following the August 2017 gathering of white supremacists in Charlottesville.
A 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, was killed and dozens of other people injured when James Alex Fields Jr drove his car into the crowd.
The counter-protesters had gathered in opposition to the white supremacists who had come to the university town ostensibly to protest the removal of a Confederate statue.
Trump has been accused of giving tacit encouragement to white supremacists by failing to unequivocally condemn their ideology and his anti-immigration policies have mostly targeted Muslims, Africans and Latinos.
Trump drew broad criticism following the Charlottesville violence when he spoke of "very fine people" and "blame on both sides," appearing to establish a moral equivalence between the white supremacists and those who opposed them.
The incident turned Charlottesville into a symbol of the growing audacity of the far right under Trump.
Spencer, one of the organizers of the "Unite the Right" rally, told the Atlantic that Trump was "being honest and calling it like he saw it."
"I was proud of him at that moment," he said.