Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer declared the city the “capital of the resistance” at a rally held in January following the election of President Donald Trump.
Signer organized the rally to announce his plans to “resist” the Trump administration by providing legal assistance to immigrants and directing the Charlottesville’s Human Rights Commission to address reports of xenophobia or racism. Signer also said he was considering violating federal law by making Charlottesville a “sanctuary city” for illegal immigrants.
The rally was reportedly attended by hundreds of citizens as well Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim American soldier died in combat in Iraq, who chastised Trump for his proposed Muslim immigration ban in a speech at the Democratic National Convention.
Roughly six months later the “capital of resistance” hosted a large gathering of white supremacists who faced off with counter protesters in bloody street brawls Saturday. The riot turned deadly after a 20-year-old alt-right protestor careened into a crowd of counter protestors with his car, killing one woman and injuring 19. Two police offers who were monitoring the rally also lost their lives after their helicopter crashed.
Trump faced backlash for issuing a statement Saturday condemning violence “on all sides.” Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle criticized Trump’s initial failure to explicitly name and condemn the role white supremacist ideology played in the day’s events.
Signer reacted to the violence Saturday by blaming Trump, arguing that blame for the incident “goes right to the doorstep of the president and the people around him who chose to dance with the devil in their presidential campaign.”
Signer defended his statement Saturday during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, citing the “intentional courting” of white supremacists by the Trump campaign as well as Trump’s failure to mention the racist ideology animating the riot.
Signer continued to blame Trump for the riot Monday, saying that Trump “had his opportunity” to respond to the day’s events and he “whiffed” during an appearance on CNN’s “New Day.” (RELATED: Charlottesville Mayor: Trump ‘Whiffed’ On Response To Riots)
While Signer has been quick to blame Trump’s campaign messaging for the riot’s tragic outcome, a number of those present at the rally said the violence escalated dramatically as a direct result of police inaction. While there were police on hand armed with riot gear they were ordered not to intervene unless ordered to do so, according to the ACLU of Virginia. (RELATED: Why Were The Police Held Back In Charlottesville?)
“There was no police presence,” Brittany Caine-Conley, a minister-in-training who protested the alt-right rally, told The New York Times. “We were watching people punch each other; people were bleeding all the while police were inside of barricades at the park, watching. It was essentially just brawling on the street and community members trying to protect each other.”
Vice President Mike Pence explicitly condemned white supremacists Sunday and defended Trump, saying his call for unity was “from the heart.”
“We have no tolerance for hate and violence, white supremacists or neo-Nazis or the KKK,” Pence said in a statement.
The White House clarified Trump’s statement Sunday, explicitly stating that the president condemns “white Supremacists, KKK, neo-nazi and all extremist groups.”
Trump responded to the backlash again Monday, issuing another statement in which he called out white supremacists by name.
“Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said.
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