President Trump criticised over response to far-right

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US President Donald Trump is facing criticism from both Republicans and Democrats for his response to violence at a Virginia white supremacist rally.

A woman was killed and 19 were injured when a car ploughed into a crowd of counter-protesters in Charlottesville.

Mr Trump condemned violence by “many sides” – but stopped short of explicitly condemning the far-right.

The White House has since clarified in a statement that his condemnation included white supremacists.

“The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred. Of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups,” a spokesperson said on Sunday.

What happened in Charlottesville

Hundreds of white nationalists converged for Saturday’s “Unite the Right” march, called to protest against the removal of a statue of a general who had fought for the pro-slavery Confederacy during the US Civil War.

The far-right demonstrators, who included neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members, clashed with counter-protesters. People punched and kicked each other, and pepper spray, used by both sides, filled the air.

The crowd in Charlottesville, almost entirely white and male, put their arms up in Nazi salutes and cheered on the former grand wizard of the KKK, David Duke.

As the rally was dispersed, a car was driven into a crowd of counter-protesters, the force of the crash flinging people into the air.

A 32-year-old woman, Heather D Heyer, was killed in the crash, Charlottesville Police Department said.

Twenty-year-old James Fields from Ohio, the alleged driver, is in detention on suspicion of second-degree murder and the FBI has opened a civil rights investigation.

Apart from the car-ramming incident, Charlottesville police said at least 15 were wounded in other violence related to the far-right march.

The governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, said that his only message for the white supremacists who had come to Charlottesville was “Go home”.

Some observers say that Mr Trump’s election to the White House has re-energised the far right across the US.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organisation, says that “Trump’s run for office electrified the radical right, which saw in him a champion of the idea that America is fundamentally a white man’s country.”

 President Trump reaction

Mr Trump said he condemned “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides”.

“The hate and the division must stop right now,” he told reporters, speaking in New Jersey, where he is on a working holiday. “We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation.”

But his comments did not explicitly condemn the white extremist groups involved in the rally.

Asked whether the car-ramming was domestic terrorism, Mr Trump’s National Security Adviser HR McMaster said “anytime that you commit an attack against people to incite fear, it meets the definition of terrorism”.

 

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