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.
"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
"People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love…"— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 13, 2017
"…For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite." – Nelson Mandela— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 13, 2017
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.”
No. Not in America. We must be stronger, more determined and more united than ever. Racism and hate have no place here. #charlottesville— Joe Biden (Text Join to 30330) (@JoeBiden) August 12, 2017
There is only one side. #charlottesville— Joe Biden (Text Join to 30330) (@JoeBiden) August 12, 2017
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.”
The white nationalist demonstration in #Charlottesville is a reprehensible display of racism and hatred. This has no place in our society.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 12, 2017
No, Mr. President. This is a provocative effort by Neo-Nazis to foment racism and hatred and create violence. Call it out for what it is. https://t.co/WibPqkLsLa— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) August 12, 2017
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.
My heart is in Charlottesville today, and with everyone made to feel unsafe in their country.— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) August 12, 2017
But the incitement of hatred that got us here is as real and condemnable as the white supremacists in our streets.— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) August 12, 2017
Now is the time for leaders to be strong in their words & deliberate in their actions.— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) August 12, 2017
We will not step backward. If this is not who we are as Americans, let's prove it.— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) August 12, 2017
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.
It's tragic and heartbreaking to see hatred and racism once again mar our great Nation with bloodshed https://t.co/bxHFY9Eprl— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) August 13, 2017
I urge the Department of Justice to immediately investigate and prosecute today's grotesque act of domestic terrorism.— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) August 13, 2017
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.
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. -OGH— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) August 12, 2017
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.”