President Donald Trump on Saturday declined to condemn the violent actions and protests of white supremacists who had converged en masse on Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the removal of a statue of a Confederate general.
The clashes killed at least one person and injured a number of others.
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Instead, Trump called out, in what he deemed the strongest possible terms, "this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides — on many sides.” Yet, he never denounced by name the extremist group or called the behavior of the white supremacists unacceptable. He made his pronouncements from his golf club in New Jersey just before signing a bill related to veterans’ health care.
The worst violence came in the afternoon, when a car sped up and rammed into a group of people protesting the white nationalists, resulting in one death and numerous injuries. The state police later linked a helicopter crash that killed the pilot and a passenger outside Charlottesville to the rally, bringing the death tally Saturday to three.
Earlier in the day, hours after the white nationalists had marched in Virginia with lanterns and assaulted nonviolent protesters, Trump tweeted out that “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!”
The call for Americans to “come together as one” alongside a high-profile white nationalist group that openly derides minorities, Jews and women left many people aghast. It also gave Democrats an opportunity to paint Trump as a president ill-equipped to represent all Americans.
"America is no place for bigots. And to be silent in the face of their hatred is to condone it,” Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement. “That's why it is on all of us to stand up to these reprehensible acts and speak out against white supremacy. We cannot allow a group of cowards [to] instill fear in our communities."