President Trump has condemned the violent clashes and a car ramming incident in Charlottesville, Virginia, saying that “the division must stop.” The statement has, however, angered his critics who insist he should have singled out white nationalists.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” Trump said in a Saturday address, adding that he has been “closely following” the events in Charlottesville.
“I just got off the phone with the governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, and we agreed that the hate and the division must stop, and must stop right now,” he said, adding, “We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation and true affection for each other.”
“No matter our color, creed, religion, our political party, we are all Americans first,” Trump said.
While Trump noted that the division “has been going on for a long, long time” he added that it “has no place in America.”
Trump later offered condolences to the victim of an apparent car attack in Charlottesville, which has been identified as a 32-year-old woman. The car rammed through a crowd of people taking part in the opposing rallies of “Unite the Right” protesters and counter-demonstrators and hitting other vehicles. RT America’s Alex Rubinstein reported that the people marching at the scene were anti-fascist demonstrators.
“Condolences to the family of the young woman killed today, and best regards to all of those injured, in Charlottesville, Virginia. So sad!” Trump tweeted.
It was not immediately clear what motivated the driver of the car, which smashed into another vehicle and tossed people in the air before speedily reversing, but police say they are treating the incident as homicide.
The apparent attack was preceded by confrontations between the “alt-Right” and the anti-fascists, which at times spilled over into violent brawls. A total of 35 people are reported to have been injured in Saturday’s violence, including 19 who were hit by the car. Five people are still in critical condition, the University of Virginia Medical Center said in its latest updates.
Two more people were killed just outside Charlottesville on Saturday as a police helicopter crashed in a wooded area on Old Farm Road in Albemarle County. Reports suggest that the helicopter was earlier circling above the crowds, monitoring the protests.
First Lady Melania Trump also criticized the violence in Virginia, tweeting: “Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let’s communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence.”
However, many Trump critics, including media outlets generally critical of Trump, have taken the Saturday statements as a sign the president is unwilling to directly criticize the far-right nationalists, who are considered to be pro-Trump.
Some have lashed out on Trump on Twitter for seemingly blaming “many sides” rather than the white supremacists, whom they consider to be responsible for the violence.
Trump didn’t mention car attack. Didn’t mention “white supremacists” “neo-Nazis” or “hate groups” by name. It was a “both sides” statement.
— Dell Cameron (@dellcam) August 12, 2017
Others have disagreed with the idea that the white nationalists were solely to blame, saying that both sides engaged in clashes throughout the day. Right-wing writer Mike Cernovich tweeted a photo of protesters with Confederate flags facing off with a black masked man holding an improvised aerosol can flamethrower, who is pointing the flame at the group of white nationalists. He argued that the critics of the far-right “ignore half of this picture.”
Saturday’s demonstration was originally meant as a right-wing protest against the removal of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park, known as the Lee Park before it was renamed by the decision of the city council in June. On Facebook, the “Unite the Right” rally’s aim was also described as to “unify the right-wing against a totalitarian Communist crackdown” and “affirm the right of Southerners and white people to organize for their interests just like any other group is able to do.”
However, it attracted crowds of counter-demonstrators, which included anti-fascist and Black Lives Matter protesters. Clashes between these groups and the far-right protesters resulted in the city proclaiming a state of emergency.