President Donald Trump said during a press conference Tuesday that the white nationalists who gathered in Charlottesville last Friday were “protesting very quietly” against the city’s plans to remove a Confederate statue honouring Gen. Robert E. Lee.
“There were people in that rally … If you look, there were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee,” Trump said. “I’m sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day, it looked like they had some rough, bad people. Neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them.”
But images and video footage captured from the rally Friday night shows it was anything but quiet and peaceful.
Scores of people, primarily young, white men, converged at the University of Virginia carrying lit tiki torches. The march was the prequel to a larger rally planned for the next day.
Friday’s rally was filled with references to Nazism and white supremacy. Marchers chanted Nazi slogans like, “Blood and soil” and “Sieg Heil” throughout the night. It was organised by self-described “pro-white” activist Jason Kessler.
At one point, a fight broke out between marchers and a small group of counterprotesters who had surrounded a statue of Thomas Jefferson on UVA’s campus.
Marchers could be heard shouting, “White lives matter!” as things got heated.
They alternated between chants of “You will not replace us,” “Jews will not replace us,” and “One people, one nation, end immigration!”
One white supremacist shouted, “You sound like a n—–” at counterprotesters.
The rally on Friday was just a precursor to the events that took place on Saturday. Riots broke out as white supremacists clashed with counterprotesters, and things quickly devolved into chaos when apparent white supremacist James Fields drove his car into a crowd of demonstrators. Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal, was killed and 19 others were injured as a result of the car attack.
President Trump on Tuesday repeatedly equated neo-Nazis and the “alt-left” during the press conference and added that there were “two sides to the story.”
“As far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day … You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” Trump said. “Nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it.”
Tuesday’s press conference was the third time Trump addressed the Charlottesville riots. In his initial statement on Saturday, Trump pinned the blame “on many sides” while not specifically condemning white nationalists. After widespread criticism, Trump on Monday made another statement, denouncing neo-Nazis and KKK members as “repugnant” and specifically calling out the “hatred and bigotry” at the rally.
Massive brawl breaks out, tiki torches thrown as #UniteTheRight reaches Jefferson monument in #Charlottesville. Chemicals dispersed pic.twitter.com/NsepwZC0Te
— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) August 12, 2017
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