Violence broke out Saturday in the normally quiet city of Charlottesville, Virginia when white nationalists arrived to hold a “Unite the Right” rally that had been moved then canceled because it was deemed an unlawful assembly, according to the Wall Street Journal. The rally was to organized to protest the removal of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The event was started by blogger Jason Kessler who called it a “pro-white” rally.
Liberty Nation has been reporting on this escalating tension between the right and left in Charlottesville as a result of political moves in the city to remove civil war names on parks and statues. Author James V. Capua has thoroughly outlined the situation on LN here and here.
Things got out of hand yesterday when a car mowed down more than a dozen people — killing one and injuring 19. As of late yesterday, five people remained in critical condition. The driver of that vehicle was taken into custody. An already troubling day was compounded when a helicopter crashed in the area, resulting in two more deaths. The crash was thought to be related to the events of the day.
The participants in the “Unite the Right” rally were made up of neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members, and other groups. While carrying torches, the white nationalist groups chanted slogans like “White lives matter!” “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!” as they marched through the campus. According to The Washington Post, members of these groups feel that “they are being persecuted for being white and that white history in America is being erased.”
Counter protesters were members of the clergy, Black Lives Matter, and other organizations. The rally was scheduled to commence at 12 pm, but activists from both sides arrived on Friday evening and a number of concerns among city officials forced the protest to be moved and then canceled. The Washington Post reported that individuals wearing “combat gear” clashed with one another using clubs and sticks. People on both sides sprayed each other with pepper spray and other chemical irritants.
As the violence continued, Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and forcefully spoke out against the melee and subsequent violence. As well, the President condemned the events that had taken place in Charlottesville as an “egregious display of hatred.” “No matter our color, creed, religion or political party we are all Americans first,” the president said.
The Washington Post reported that Charlottesville and Virginia state police were present at the scene, but did not initially act to curb the violence. Eventually, law enforcement did act to disperse the crowds, ordering the activists to leave the area. While the violence is over, the hostility remains.
Racial tensions in the United States are the highest they have been in decades. Both resentment and conflict have become pervasive in national conversation on race. The Confederate Monument issue is only one area in which racial strife has manifested in the country. While the violence that occurred in Charlottesville is regrettable, it is worth noting that the incident has elicited similar responses from both the right and the left.
Democrat Mayor Mike Signer made a statement criticizing the white nationalists at the rally:
Everyone has a right under the First Amendment to express their opinion peaceably, so here’s mine: not only as the Mayor of Charlottesville, but as a UVA faculty member and alumnus, I am beyond disgusted by this unsanctioned and despicable display of visual intimidation on a college campus.
Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan (R-WI) called the event “repugnant.” Likewise, Governor Terry McAuliffe said, “I am disgusted by the hatred, bigotry, and violence these protesters have brought to our state over the past 24 hours.” President Donald Trump tweeted: “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!” Vice President Mike Pence also tweeted: “I stand with @POTUS against hate & violence. U.S is greatest when we join together & oppose those seeking to divide us.”
In response to the situation in Charlotteville, we have seen American leaders on both sides of the political spectrum speaking out against actual racism and violence. Not only that, many have taken to social media to express their disdain for white nationalists at the rally. While members of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups used their free speech rights to put their hate and bigotry on display, the American public responded with resounding condemnation.
So what does all this mean? Simply this: the vast majority of Americans reject racism outright. Although many on the left have fixated on racism — especially when they can use it to smear conservatives — the overall reaction to this event shows that most Americans stand in opposition to real racism. We may never be able to eliminate bigotry from our society, but if the response to Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia is any indication, the United States will continue to make progress.