Trump still fuels racial divide a year after Charlottesville

Cheryl Sanders
August 14, 2018

The "Unite the Right 2" march - held to commemorate the anniversary of a 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that claimed three lives - will be countered by marchers that have come together from a range of organisations such as Black Lives Matter and DC United Against Hate.

Protected by throngs of D.C. Metro police officers, Kessler and about two dozen followers took a local subway train from suburban Virginia into downtown Washington early Sunday afternoon, well before the rally's planned start time at 5:30 pm.

Last year's protests in Charlottesville on August 11 saw hundreds of neo-Nazi sympathizers, accompanied by rifle-carrying men, chanting white nationalist and anti-Jewish slogans while wielding flaming torches - scenes reminiscent of racist rallies held before the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s.

Trump has retweeted white nationalist material; said Mexicans crossing the USA border are rapists and drug dealers; once referred to a Hispanic Miss Universe as "Miss Housekeeping", and employed Steve Bannon, central figure of the new "alt-right" in America, as his campaign chief and top strategist for a time.

Richard Spencer, a prominent member of the alt-right and president of a white supremacist think tank, said he would not be attending the rally.

President Trump grew criticism a year ago for his initial response the 2017 "Unite the Right" rally as he said "hate" came from "all sides".

Two days later, after a firestorm of criticism, the president said: "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". "Peace to ALL Americans!" the president tweeted.

Washington moved on. GOP leaders who harshly criticized the president at the time still largely back his agenda, well aware that polling shows there was no sustained damage to Trump's popularity among the party's voters after Charlottesville.

The location, close to the president's seat of power could not be more symbolic - even if Mr Trump himself was weekending at his New Jersey golf club.

"Riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division", he wrote on Twitter on Saturday morning. I believe that for me, and for many other Americans, the "Unite the Right" rally was the moment that the Trump presidency started to feel like the dystopia some had anticipated. A White House spokeswoman dismissed Manigault Newman as "a disgruntled" former employee.

Walker, the first African American woman elected Mayor of Charlottesville, took office in January 2018.

"My message is for peace and love on all sides", Downard told reporters as he stood at Lafayette Square, a large public park on the north side of White House. Kessler gave a short speech, which was watched by numerous counter-protesters, and then the alt-right rally shut down when it began to rain.

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