(WASHINGTON) —A chorus of figures from across the political spectrum expressed outrage with a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia Saturday where clashes between white supremacists and counter-protest groups forced the city to declare a state of emergency and one person died after a car plowed into a group of pedestrians.
Several politicians voiced their concern with the planned “Unite the Right” event even before the violence intensified, but those misgivings were amplified Saturday afternoon, in response to the growing conflict and to President Donald Trump’s seeming unwillingness to condemn the white nationalist movement and label the car crash an act of terrorism.
“Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists,” tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 12, 2017
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., the lone African-American Republican in the senate, also called the attack “domestic terror” and encouraged it to be “condemned.”
“Otherwise hate is simply emboldened,” wrote Scott.
— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) August 12, 2017
In a statement, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., went so far as to address “neo-Nazis” along with white supremacists, saying that the groups “are, by definition, opposed to American patriotism and the ideals that define us as a people and make our nation special.”
Former President Barack Obama, tweeting for the first time in over three weeks, shared a quote from the late South African President Nelson Mandela. “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite,” he wrote.
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion…” pic.twitter.com/InZ58zkoAm
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 13, 2017
Obama’s vice president Joe Biden expressed his dismay with a portion of Trump’s response to the violent. The president said Sunday that there was a “display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”
“There is only one side,” tweeted Biden.den.
There is only one side. #charlottesville
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) August 12, 2017
Even before the events of the rally resulted in the death of the 32-year-old female victim of the automobile accident, a number of lawmaker spoke out against the event.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent and self-described Democratic Socialist, called the rally “reprehensible.”
“The white nationalist demonstration in #Charlottesville is a reprehensible display of racism and hatred that has no place in our society,” Sanders wrote.
The white nationalist demonstration in #Charlottesville is a reprehensible display of racism and hatred that has no place in our society.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) August 12, 2017
Chuck Schumer, the Democrats’ leader in the Senate, echoed that sentiment, saying that the rally was “against everything the flag stands for.”
March & rally in Charlottesville against everything the flag stands for. President Trump must condemn in strongest terms immediately.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) August 12, 2017
On Saturday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a statement condemning the violence.
“I have been in contact with our Department of Justice agents assisting at the scene and state officials,” Sessions said. “We will continue to support our state and local officers on the ground in any way possible. We stand united behind the President in condemning the violence in Charlottesville and any message of hate and intolerance. This kind of violence is totally contrary to American values and can never be tolerated. I want to thank all law enforcement personnel in the area for their commitment to protecting this community and the rule of law.”
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was among the high-ranking Republicans to speak out against the rally, calling it “repugnant” and “vile.”
“The views fueling the spectacle in Charlottesville are repugnant. Let it only serve to unite Americans against this kind of vile bigotry,” Ryan wrote.
The views fueling the spectacle in Charlottesville are repugnant. Let it only serve to unite Americans against this kind of vile bigotry.
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) August 12, 2017
Ronna McDaniel, the GOP chairwoman, called the rally “dangerous” and “cowardly” in a tweet.
Free speech may give them the right to do this but also empowers us to unite to loudly speak out against it.
— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) August 12, 2017
In a follow up tweet, McDaniel defended the rally’s right to exist, while urging citizens to speak out against it.
“Free speech may give them the right to do this but also empowers us to unite to loudly speak out against it,” she wrote.
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