Chaos erupted on Saturday, on what is said to be the largest gathering of white supremacists in decades – including members of the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis. This rally comes after plans were announced to remove a confederate statue, a symbol of slavery, America’s civil war, and the South.
Saturday was not the only day that white supremacists aimed to intimidate and voice their anger in having the confederate statue of Robert E Lee removed, as on Friday, the rally really begin. Hundreds of marchers holding torches walked towards the University of Virginia, yelling and chanting slogans like “white lives matter,” and “you will not replace us.” According to anti-racist activists who were present at the march, the group of white supremacists encircled and attacked a group of students holding a counter protest.
The marchers and their movement, known as Unite the Right, have been said to try and “intimidate the community” as Michael Payne describes it, the co-chair of the local Democratic Socialists of America chapter. The event organized by Jason Kessler, a former journalist. and a member of an ultra-nationalist group, Proud Boys, said it was an “incredible moment for white people.”
On the very next day, more anti-racist and anti-fascist activists came to counter the white supremacists with signs saying “black lives matter,” “peace,” and “love.” The rally took a turn for violence as a car rammed into a “sea of people, killing at least three and injuring dozens. The silver Dodge Challenger was driven by a 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr., of Ohio, who was later charged with second-degree murder.
Impossibly, more surprising than the atrocities of Saturday’s events was Donald Trump’s reaction or lack of one. The president who is rarely afraid to express his thoughts seemed to avoid stating certain facts when addressing the public. Yes, he had condoned the event and had called it a “tragedy,” but what bothered many was his unwillingness to call the act white supremacy.
“We must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are ALL AMERICANS FIRST,” the president wrote, emphasizing his campaign slogan, America First. Senator Cory Gardner, Republican of Colorado, tweeted “Mr. President — we must call evil by its name, these were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.”
Fields’ mother’s response to the tragedy was even more amusing but furthermore vexatious. Samantha Bloom told The Associated Press “I thought it had something to do with Trump. Trump’s not a white supremacist,” stating she had no idea what the rally was about. She went on to say “he had an African-American friend so …,” as she trailed off, not being able to comprehend how she didn’t know of his far-right political association.
Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer states at a press conference “there is a very sad and regrettable coarseness in our politics that we’ve all seen too much of today, our opponents have become our enemies, debate has become intimidation.“