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Trump’s statement: too little, too late

An essential duty of a president is to use their amplified voice to make peace and create positive change. Powerful rhetoric in presidential statements has the strength to prevent riots and uprisings, and keep citizens safe. It is the president who voices the values, wants, needs and fears of the country. 

For 48 hours this past weekend, white supremacists and neo-Nazis held a “unite the right” protest in Charlottesville, Va. Hundreds of white nationalists, primarily young white men, marched with torches, shouting anti-semitic, homophobic, racist and fascist rhetoric. They were met with counter-protesters promoting ideas of peace and equality. The clash led to a state of emergency, with the current count as this issue of The Winsted Journal goes to press of three people dead and 19 people injured. A car plowed into a peaceful group. The driver, James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old who traveled to Virginia from Ohio, embraced extremist ideology since high school, according to his high school history teacher.

Despite his reputation for instant and often extreme responses, President Trump failed to call out these extremists. His immediate, unscripted response was a tepid and vague statement that blamed, “many sides” equally lumped the anti-fascist protesters fighting not for superiority, but equality in with the violent bigots.

Many agree that President Donald J. Trump made a monumental mistake by not unequivocally condemning hate and bigotry. His silence showed solidarity with extremists and condoned terrorism and violence as he did during his campaign. Trump demonstrated that unless put under immense political pressure, he would stay silent. It took two full days of criticism from all sides for the president to single out white supremacists and denounce the hate groups responsible for the “weekend’s racist violence.”

“Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the Klu Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists,” he begrudgingly read from a teleprompter.

Studies confirm that between 1877–1950, over 3,900 black people were killed in “racial terror lynchings,” most often committed by the KKK. Many more deaths are unaccounted for due to the law’s neglect of the subject during the time. During the Holocaust, the Nazi party was responsible for more than 15 million deaths. It is the ideals of these groups that Trump tolerates and the votes that Trump accepted and continues to court. As Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, of Utah, tweeted, “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.” 

Historically, peaceful protests do not result in violence or death by protesters. Occupy Wall Street and the 1968 march on Washington, which was attended by over 250,000 people, did not result in any deaths or serious injuries. In fact, the majority of people that died during the civil rights movement were activists murdered by white nationalists and police. This is the difference between the white nationalists protesting the fake “erasure of white history” this Saturday, and the counter-protesters, fighting for their lives.

Trump’s actions inspire and strengthen extreme fascist organizations. Trump supporter David Duke, former KKK Grand Wizard told white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and far-right protesters at the start of the rally in Charlottesville, “We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.”

Andrew Anglin, the creator of the Nazi website The Daily Stormer, praised Trump’s response. “He didn’t attack us,” he wrote in a blog post. “(He) implied that there was hate … on both sides. So he implied the anti-fascists are haters. There was virtually no counter-signaling of us all.”

Now more than ever, it is the President’s duty to call this evil by name, not blaming “many sides,” but rather to distinguish the fascist groups as the terrorists they are. 

We, along with the president, must stand up to Nazis, KKK members, and white nationalists and show them that their repulsive actions and opinions have no place in the mainstream. 

 

Krystal Bagnaschi is an intern at the Office of the Community Lawyer. She is a senior at The Gilbert School.