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Republicans, Democrats denounce racism in Charlottesville

Some Republican lawmakers were much more forceful than their president.


Chris Tognotti


Posted on Aug 13, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 8:45 pm CDT

One day after the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacist protesters faced off against anti-racist counter-protesters, political leaders from across the spectrum have weighed in to condemn the violent and racist bigotry that was on display.

The rally ultimately turned deadly on Saturday afternoon, as a man (since identified by law enforcement as 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr.) was filmed ramming into a crowd of anti-racist protesters with his car, sending people flying through the air. A total of 19 people were reportedly injured in the attack, while one person―32-year-old paralegal Heather Heyer―was killed.

Former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden both condemned the racist demonstrations and the bloodshed following the fatal attack. Obama, for his part, tweeted a quote from the late South African leader Nelson Mandela.

Biden, on the other hand, tweeted that “racism and hate” have no place in America, and concluded with a far more forceful rebuke to President Donald Trump, who commented on Saturday afternoon that hatred, bigotry, and violence had been coming “from many sides.

Vermont senator and former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders came out more bluntly and forcefully than either Obama or Biden, calling the neo-Nazi demonstrations in Charlottesville a “reprehensible display of racism and hatred,” and castigating Trump for failing to “call it what it is.”

Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton also voiced her dismay at Saturday’s events, decrying both the racism, violence, and the “incitement to hatred” that helped enable what transpired.

It wasn’t just Democrats and progressives who spoke out following the demonstrations and Heyer’s killing. Several elected Republicans also weighed in, some of whom took a much firmer stand than Trump. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz both identified the events in Charlottesville as racism, with Rubio insisting the president should declare it an act of white supremacist terrorism.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) also weighed in with some implicit criticism of Trump’s middle-ground response, invoking the memory of his older brother Jesse Hatch, who died fighting in World War II.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) also tweeted following the attack, and his words carry some resonance, as he was the first black Republican elected to any office in South Carolina since the 1800s. He didn’t specifically refer to the racism, Nazism, or white supremacy of the attacks, but he did call the attack an act of “domestic terror.”

The Charlottesville demonstrations and subsequent attack have cast a long shadow on American national politics, and figure to draw a lot of attention over the course of the days and weeks to come. According to multiple outlets, the Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation into the violence and death at the rally.

Update 12:18pm CT, Aug. 13: National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on Sunday said the Charlottesville car crash was “the definition of terrorism.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that Trump should “dissuade these groups that he’s their friend.”

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*First Published: Aug 13, 2017, 11:26 am CDT