It’s time to put a halt to the alt-right movement. Today’s violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia were preceded the night before by white nationalists who marched onto the campus of the University of Virginia. They were met by counter-protesters on “The Lawn” (the heart of UVA, designed by Thomas Jefferson) in tense and violent exchanges. Many of the protesters carried campaign signs for Mr. Trump.
James Kessler, a pro-white activist, had led the march Friday and was the one who obtained the permit for today’s “Unite The Right Rally.” It was to be held in Emancipation Park to protest the removal of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The event scheduled for 12:00 noon today was cancelled by the governor before it even took place because of violence that broke out in the streets between the protesters and counterprotests.
This “Unite the Right” march which more appropriately should have been called “Unite the Alt-Right,” consisted of hundreds of neoNazis, Ku Klux Klan members, a self-described “militia” with guns and other white nationalist groups. Waving Confederate flags, chanting Nazi-era slogans, wearing helmets and carrying shields, they walked toward the park and began chanting phrases like “You will not replace us,” and “Jew will not replace us.”
They were met by equal numbers of counterprotesters, including clergy, Black Lives Matter activists and Princeton professor emeritus Dr. Cornel West. Throughout the day people were injured and arrested in the violence. A car of protesters is believed to have deliberately struck pedestrian counterprotesters killing one person and leaving others injured.
At the Scene David Duke, a former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, said, “We’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump” to “take our country back,” Many of the white nationalist protesters carried signs for Donald Trump.
This represents an ugly resurgence. It idid not succeed in uniting the right, as over the past years the Republican Party has been trying to disassociate itself from Nazis, KKK and white Supremacists. However, President Trump had no qualms about their support during his campaign. This afternoon he condemned the violence but not the perpetrators. His Senior Advisor Steve Bannon has publicly encouraged the alt-right movement.
So even next to a progressive university in a progressive county which voted 59% for Clinton and 34% for Trump outsiders can come, puff up their egos, create chaos, and trumpet their morally repugnant beliefs.The KKK members, for example, came from North Carolina.
One commentator on TV compared the protesters to Hitler youth rallies. I understand the frustration of those who are unemployed and feel they are forgotten but there should be no place for the bigotry and hatred of the alt-righ in Virginia, New Jersey or anywhere in the USA. Trump should set an example by booting Steve Bannon and his allies out of the White House. There is many a Republican who would agree.
Note: I graduated from the University of Virginia and was an editor and later columnist for the student paper Cavalier Daily which somehow is reporting on the event even though students have not yet arrived for the fall session.