On Aug. 12, the “Unite the Right” protests took place in Charlottesville, VA. The rally was a gathering of the Ku Klux Klan, Nazis and other white supremacist groups showing their disapproval of the city’s plans to take down Confederate statues. A larger group of anti-fascist protesters came to counter the protest. Shortly thereafter, a car driven by a radical, right-wing demonstrator crashed into the anti-fascist protest, killing one and injuring 19.
The car was driven by 20-year-old James Fields, a white supremacist. Heather Heyer, a 30-year-old paralegal who joined the anti-fascist protesters that day, was killed by Fields. Elsewhere, DeAndre Harris, a local, was beaten in a Charlottesville parking garage by a group of white supremacists. Meanwhile, an African-American cop stood by protecting the white supremacist protesters while they looked at him in disgust. In a separate tragedy, a police helicopter that had been observing the protest crashed and left two state troopers dead. The troopers were Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, and the pilot, Berke M.M. Bates, 40.
President Trump was called on to disavow the white supremacists, and by all accounts, he failed. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time,” the President said.
The issue with the President’s statement, aside from the non-sensical oratory, was his failure to call out Nazis and the KKK by name, and even including and blaming counter protesters. Trump was criticized by many, notably several GOP senators and representatives, including former rival in the presidential race, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. President Trump went a step further. “[we need to] cherish our history,” he said. Many see this as support for the white supremacists who say the same about the confederate flag and their European heritage.
On Aug. 14, President Trump attempted to finally condemn the white supremacists by name, except he did not. He did not go nearly far enough. Even worse, the next day he went back to saying both sides were responsible, and that there are “great people” among the Nazis. He even went so far as to say that, “I know it and you know it,” in regards to both sides being responsible. However, this is not the case. One man killed an innocent woman. He is responsible. In addition, all the violence which took place was by the white supremacists.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe did not hesitate to condemn the white supremacists. Gov. McAuliffe said, “The white supremacists and Nazis need to go home, you are not wanted in this great commonwealth.” McAuliffe was applauded for his criticism and cited as how the President should have responded.
The rally and white supremacists presented a curious challenge to many right-wing news outlets, whether to show support or to condemn on different grounds. Fox News chose to criticize the counter protesters and blame them for the violence. Conservative commentator Tomi Lahren was saddened by the loss of the troopers over the equally upsetting loss of counter protestor Heyer.
The rally in Charlottesville was a tragedy for those slain and injured. The rally was also a disgrace for America. This is not what this country is about. We are a country of immigrants. A country of the people, by the people, for the people, no matter what race, sex, religion, origin, or sexual orientation. Hate speech should not be protected under the first amendment, as it constitutes fighting words. The U.S. should follow Germany and Austria’s example in making the presentation of the swastika and Nazi paraphernalia illegal. We should also do this with the confederate flag and other hate symbols. The confederate flag is not our national heritage. The confederates seceded and were thus not Americans, rather enemies of this country. They should not be honored or have graveyards dedicated to them.
One great thing coming out of Charlottesville was the revelation of the names of protesters. The Twitter page “Yes, You’re Racist” began showing pictures of protesters and revealing their identities. Many have lost their jobs. One protester was Peter Cvetjononic, a student and worker at the University of Nevada, Reno. He was a known racist and white supremacist. The school decided he would not be in trouble, to the anger of students. As a former student of the university, I am very angry at the decision to not discipline Cvetjonovic. Based on the local media, it seems all he received was a platform to spout his volatile views and get his name out.
Students at Texas A&M University attempted to organize a “White Lives Matter” on Sept. 11. Thankfully, officials at the university have cancelled this event over “risks of threat to life and safety”, according to the school. This kind of support for hate should have no place in this nation, and those countering it should be considered heroes. Those slain in Charlottesville will be mourned and should be an example of why hate should not exist in this union.