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Charlottesville: Trump calls white supremacists 'repugnant' and racism 'evil' after days of criticism

The President has been slow to denounce white supremacists in his response to the violent protests in Charlottesville

Alexandra Wilts
Washington DC
Monday 14 August 2017 17:46 BST
Trump calls white supremacists 'repugnant' and racism 'evil'

Donald Trump has declared that racism is "evil" and that the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups are "repugnant".

Mr Trump's comments come after two days of criticism for his failure to personally denounce white supremacy groups in the wake of bloody protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred bigotry and violence," Mr Trump said on Monday. "It has no place in America."

"Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans."

The US leader on Saturday did not directly condemn the actions of the neo-Nazis, skinheads, and members of the KKK who descended on Charlottesville to protest the removal of a Confederate statue. The rally of white nationalists, met by counter-protests, quickly became violent and prompted the governor to declare a 'state of emergency'.

While most of the brawling resulted in cuts and bruises, a car bearing Ohio license plates slammed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman – Heather Heyer – and injuring at least 19 others. James Fields, 20, the alleged driver, has been charged with second-degree murder.

Additionally, two Virginia state troopers en route to the scene were killed when their helicopter crashed.

Mr Trump said on Monday that Ms Hayer's "death fills us with grief and we send her family our thoughts, our prayers and our love."

"We also mourn the two Virginia state troopers, who died in service to their community, their commonwealth and their country," he added. "These three fallen Americans embody the goodness and decency of our nation. In times such as these, America has always shown its true character: responding to hate with love, division with unity, and violence with an unwavering resolve for justice."

Mr Trump, who has been at his New Jersey golf club for a 17-day "working vacation", returned to Washington to sign an executive action on China’s trade practices. He met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and new FBI Director Christopher Wray about the violence in Charlottesville before making his remarks at the White House about the incident.

Mr Trump said the Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into the deadly car attack.

"To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence, you will be held fully accountable," the President added. "Justice will be delivered."

"As I have said many times before, no matter the colour of our skin, we all live under the same laws. We all salute the same great flag. And we are all made by the same almighty God."

Following his less than six minute remarks, Mr Trump declined to answer any shouted questions, including several about whether he regretted waiting until Monday to denounce racism, according to the White House pool report.

During his first response to the protests on Saturday, Mr Trump decried "violence on all sides" rather than explicitly taking aim at far-right extremists, some of whom are his supporters.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides," he said on Saturday. "On many sides."

Neo-nazis applauded Mr Trump’s first response to the violent clashes, saying that it was "really, really good" that the President did not denounce them, while Democrats and Republicans alike criticised his equivocal comments.

While the White House then issued a statement, attributed to an unnamed spokesperson, on Sunday insisting that Mr Trump condemns white supremacists, critics took aim at the fact that the President – who is usually quick to speak his mind on Twitter – did not make that declaration himself.

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