Alt-Right activists, Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis are part of the resurgence of far-right movements in the United States. Fortunately, many Americans are determined to challenge these ideologies. This is the reality that has unfolded after the events of Charlottesville.
Martha Andrés Román
Long before the events of Saturday, August 12th in this university town in Virginia, several civil rights groups warned of an increase in these types of group in the country.
This rise, according to several sources, is related to the arrival in office of President Donald Trump whose campaign message was so absorbed by several of these organizations that before the weekend’s rally one of its main figures stated that they were seeking to fulfil the president’s promises.
Social networks have also allowed for the promotion of the message of extremist groups, which according to monitoring carried out by the civil rights organization Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), currently total more than 1,600 in the country.
Last May, following the murder of an African American college student, The Washington Post highlighted how much is known about extremism abroad and how little is known about its instigators within the country.
Newsweek magazine, for its part, published an article on the same issue in which it pointed out that the number of violent attacks inspired by extreme right ideology has increased in the US since the beginning of this century.
The article stated that such cases have risen from an annual average of 70 in the 1990s to over 300 since 2001, and have grown more since the election of Trump.
The SPLC reported nearly 900 incidents of prejudice against minorities in the first 10 days after the election, and the Anti-Defamation League reported an 86% increase in cases of anti-Semitism in the first three months of 2017. It was in this context that the plans of the Charlottesville authorities to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee, who commanded Confederate forces in the Civil War from 1862 until he surrendered in 1865, began to draw supremacists’ attention to the city.
Outraged by local plans to erase traces of their confederate past, Alt-Right (alternative right) activists, Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis prepared a rally for the 12th of August which was to bring together between two and six thousand people.
On that day anti-racist groups opposed to the message of these movements also took to the streets, and the confrontation between the two parties sparked huge violence forcing the authorities to declare a state of emergency and disperse the march.
The images of the confrontation showed protesters wielding shields, sticks and flags in massive fights that left people bloodied, as well as showing attacks with pepper spray and paint-filled balloons.
But the most shocking incident came after the clashes between the two sides, when a car crashed into a crowd of anti-supremacists and left one person dead and nearly twenty wounded.
Condemnation of extremism and criticism of Trump
When the images of the violent confrontations began to spread on the morning of the 12th of August, figures representing different parts of the country’s political spectrum condemned the events and blamed the supremacists.
“The White Nationalist demonstration in #Charlottesville is a reprehensible display of racism and hatred that has no place in our society,” wrote independent Senator Bernie Sanders on Twitter.
“Though we defend freedom of expression and assembly, we must condemn hatred, violence and white supremacy,” said former President Bill Clinton on the social network.
On the same platform several users drew attention to the fact that for much of the day President Trump did not comment on the riots, despite being very active on Twitter.
During the afternoon the president spoke about the events of Virginia on this same microblogging network and in a press conference from his golf club in New Jersey, but his statements provoked criticism from both Democrats and Republicans. “We are closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville and condemn in the strongest terms this flagrant display of hatred, fanaticism and violence expressed on ‘many sides,’ “he said.
The lack of an explicit condemnation of the attitude of those who took to the streets with Confederate flags and neo-Nazi chants led Republican Senator Cory Gardner to say, “Mr. President, we must call evil by its name.”
According to this Colorado senator, the evil here were the white supremacists and what happened was domestic terrorism.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said in a statement that there are not “many sides” involved in these events, and that talk and action of this type constitute a poison that causes the country to endure its “lowest and most anti-American” periods.
Only after two days of receiving such comments did Trump condemn the violence caused by racism “including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups.”
The response, however, was not confined to social networks, and several US cities held marches, rallies and vigils in support of Charlottesville and in defiance of extreme right ideas: New York, Brooklyn, Washington DC, Los Angeles, California as well as San Francisco and Baltimore, among many other cities. (PL)
Photos: Pixabay – (Translated by Nigel Conibear – DipTrans IoLET MCIL – firstname.lastname@example.org)