After facing heavy criticism from religious leaders and members of his own party for his carefully worded response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, President Donald Trump has denounced the white nationalist groups involved in Saturday’s melee by name. Speaking from the White House on Monday, Trump called out the “KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups,” whose actions and beliefs are antithetical to the American way.
“Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” the president said. “We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal. We are equal in the eyes of our creator. We are equal under the law. And we are equal under our Constitution. Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.”
On Saturday, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency after clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters—including Black Lives Matter activists and anti-fascist groups known as ANTIFA—turned deadly.
The violence began on Friday night when fights broke out during the rally at the University of Virginia campus, and tensions flared again on Saturday morning when police cancelled a scheduled “Unite the Right” protest at Emancipation Park, where the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee has caused controversy.
By lunchtime on Saturday, the situation has completely devolved, with both sides trading taunts and shoves before coming to blows in the park. The Virginia National Guard eventually intervened, and as the crowds dissipated, a car rammed into a group of bystanders, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring dozens more.
Police apprehended the suspected driver, 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr., soon after the attack. On Monday, a judge denied bail to the Ohio man, who appeared in Charlottesville General District Court via video conference, after reading out the charges against him, which include one count of second-degree murder, several counts of malicious wounding and, one count of hit and run. Fields said he would not be able to afford a lawyer and was assigned private attorney Charles Weber because the public defender is said to have a conflict of interest in the case.
In the aftermath of Saturday’s carnage, Trump vaguely condemned the attack on Twitter and in an address from his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, stating “many sides” were involved in the incident. He also sent “best regards” to the victims of the car crash.
Condolences to the family of the young woman killed today, and best regards to all of those injured, in Charlottesville, Virginia. So sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2017
While the White House sought to defend the president’s remarks, he found few supporters. On Sunday, his daughter Ivanka spoke out specifically against “white supremacy” and “neo-nazis.”
1:2 There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis.
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) August 13, 2017
Republican members of Congress chided the administration for not being clearer in its condemnation. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said it is “very important” for the president to describe the events in Charlottesville accurately, calling it a “terror attack by white supremacists.”
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 12, 2017
Religious leaders, meanwhile, like Russell Moore of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention did not mince words when speaking out against the so-called “alt-right.”
“The so-called Alt-Right white supremacist ideologies are anti-Christ and satanic to the core,” Moore tweeted on June 14. “We should say so.”
The so-called Alt-Right white supremacist ideologies are anti-Christ and satanic to the core. We should say so. #SBC17
— Russell Moore (@drmoore) June 14, 2017