[8/16/17 SPUTNIK] Hundreds of white nationalists descended upon Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend for a “Unite the Right” rally in protest of the city voting to take down the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. They unleashed violence on leftist counter-protesters, with one anti-racist activist dying as a result.
Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear speaks with Tighe Barry from Code Pink and Phil Wilayto, editor of the Virginia Defender, who both witnessed far-right violence in Charlottesville this weekend, about how racists were allowed to run amok during demonstrations and the suspicious absence of the police.
After receiving criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike for making a tepid statement on the violence in Charlottesville, US President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House Monday that, “Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
Wilayto seriously doubts Trump’s sincerity, saying “When he took a little time off from playing golf up in New Jersey to threaten nuclear war, that was from the heart, what he read was obviously a prepared statement, I’m sure he didn’t write it.”
He pointed out that “This is a fellow who keeps as his chief policy advisor Steve Bannon, who described his Breitbart news agency as a platform for the alt-right. There couldn’t be anything more hypocritical than Donald Trump condemning the people who he has brought into the White House as his advisors.”
Barry said he finds the president to be “pretty much irrelevant,” adding, “We know where he stands on this issue, he changes his mind from time to time, he feels where the wind is blowing and he goes with it. So obviously he was pressured to say these things. He’s just a spokesman for the alt-right.”
He described seeing white supremacists marching around the campus of the University of Virginia Friday a day before their permit to demonstrate took effect, and there were at least 1,000 police officers around who did “absolutely nothing. All day long all the police did was guard empty space. So I think it’s really clear that this was a orchestrated event.It went exactly as planned.”
Wilayto said that 30 activists from Black Lives Matter and other groups were surrounded by white supremacists at the Jefferson memorial at the University of Virginia, who began beating them with torches and other weapons, spraying them with pepper spray, with one person even being doused with lighter fluid. He said the melee wasn’t broken up until police, under a stand-down order, finally declared a lawful assembly and dispersed the crowd.
“State police are controlled by the governor of Virginia (Terry McAuliffe), who came to Richmond and cried crocodile tears at a Democrat Party vigil for Heather Heyer. He was in charge, he is responsible for the fact that the state police did not respond.”
Heyer died after James Fields, thought to be associated with white nationalist group Vanguard America, plowed his car into a crowd of unsuspecting counter-protesters on Saturday. Nineteen people were injured as well.
“The overriding issue is that the state made a conscious decision not to intervene and prevent conflict between the two sides,” Wilayto suggested, “Knowing that one side was heavily armed and murderous.”
He added, “The lesson is there’s no way we can rely on the government to protect us, and our communities, and our families, and our organizations, and our movement from what has become an openly violent white supremacist movement.”