A stunning display of presidential indifference has civil rights activists angry at Donald Trump as he steadfastly refused to condemn the racism that’s led to a state of emergency in Charlottesville, Virginia.
White nationalists clashed with counter-protesters, leaving one dead and dozens injured during a “Unite the Right” protest of the removal of a statue honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
The protests took place at Emancipation Park, formerly known as Lee Park.
“The current state of emergency in Charlottesville and loss of lives is a scathing reminder to us all that the fight for justice is not over — we still have so much more to do,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said in a statement Saturday through his National Action Network. “But we cannot forget that this is also a symptom of the rhetoric the Trump administration has supported since the presidential election and into the White House, promoting violence, attacking civil rights, and allowing organizations backed by bigots to thrive.”
Sharpton said his organization has called on Trump to address the causes of the events, denounce the white supremacists at the heart of the conflict and start working toward peace.
Trump provided a measured, somewhat ambiguous statement.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides. On many sides,” Trump said. “It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long, long time.”
David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, gave an unabashed account of what the alt-right and neo-Nazi rally meant to him, calling the events a fulfillment of Trump’s vision for America.
“We are determined to take our country back,” Duke said from the rally, calling it a “turning point.” “We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.”
After Trump’s comments, Duke reminded the president that he’s just as responsible for the uprising as anyone.
“I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror and remember it was white Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists,” Duke tweeted to Trump.
Even members of Trump’s own party have urged him to condemn the white supremacists.
“Mr. President, we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism,” Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner tweeted.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who ran unsuccessfully against Trump for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, also called out the president.
“Very important for the nation to hear @POTUS describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack,” Rubio wrote.
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch concurred.
“We should call evil by its name,” he tweeted. “My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott also jumped into the fray.
“Domestic terror in #Charlottesville must be condemned by every single one of us. Otherwise hate is simply emboldened,” Scott said.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson swiftly denounced Trump’s inaction.
“What has taken place over last 24 to 48 hours is a direct result of the atmosphere that this administration has created,” Johnson told The Informer Saturday. “Trump gave an inadequate statement and this country should not tolerate the incident we’ve seen because we will find ourselves in a situation that we should have learned from and grown out of from the 1960s.
“It’s not only a major step backwards, it is an exploitation of the level of economic insecurity people are feeling in this country,” Johnson said. “The administration has done nothing to address those insecurities. In fact, they’ve created what we’ve seen today by allowing a sense of tolerance for racial hatred.”
Trump’s statement wasn’t coherent and did not address the incident, he said.
“We have seen the taking of lives and injuries to many others,” Johnson said. “We should have a commander in chief willing to stand up and be a statesman and address the problem facing this nation today and the level of racial intolerance. This should not be tolerated in any community and it should be met with decisive action.”
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, also condemned the Charlottesville incident.
“The NNPA condemns the racial hatred and violence today in Charlottesville,” said Chavis, a longtime civil rights activist and former NAACP president.