‘A right to speech is not a right to violence’: Politicians condemn violence at white nationalist protest in Charlottesville

Politicians across the spectrum are condemning the violent clashes between neo-Nazis and white nationalists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe sharply denounced the violence, tweeting, “The acts and rhetoric in #Charlottesville over past 24 hours are unacceptable & must stop. A right to speech is not a right to violence.” 

McAuliffe declared a state of emergency on Saturday as the protests devolved into violent riots. 

First Lady Melania Trump urged calm and said that while “our country encourages freedom of speech,” it was important to “communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence. #Charlottesville.”

“March & rally in Charlottesville against everything the flag stands for,” tweeted Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer. “President Trump must condemn in strongest terms immediately.”

“This is the march that carries us forward. #Charlottesville” tweeted Jeff Jackson, a North Carolina state senator. Jackson’s tweet included a photo of former President Barack Obama marching in Selma in 2015 on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. 

House Speaker Paul Ryan also condemned the white nationalist rally. “The views fuelling the spectacle in Charlottesville are repugnant,” Ryan tweeted. “Let it only serve to unite Americans against this kind of vile bigotry.” 

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi weighed in as well. “We will not tolerate the scenes of bigotry and hate taking place in #Charlottesville,” said a tweet sent from her staff’s official account. “We must stand strong together to reject it.”

Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee, slammed the alt-right protesters. “The hate & bigotry on display in #charlottesville is dangerous & cowardly,” McDaniel tweeted

Some lawmakers laid the blame on President Donald Trump. 

California Rep. Barbara Lee said white nationalists and neo-Nazis “feel emboldened by the Trump Admin. All Americans must condemn this bigotry.” 

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy slammed weighed in as well. “President Trump’s silence as #Charlottesville roils with racist and fascist provocatation is shameful, irresponsible…and, DEFINING,” Leahy tweeted

The demonstrations this weekend precede a “Unite the Right” rally called by white nationalists in response to a plan to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from a park in Charlottesville, Virginia.