Charlottesville: Trump blames 'both sides' again

He says violence by anti-fascists since then proves his point; signs Congress resolution on white supremacists

WASHINGTON • United States President Donald Trump stood by his belief that both sides were to blame for the Charlottesville violence between white supremacists and counterprotesters last month.

Mr Trump had drawn criticism for not initially condemning white supremacists who organised the event in Virginia state on Aug 12, with even some of his fellow Republicans expressing dismay at his opinion.

The President spoke to reporters aboard Air Force One a day after a meeting with South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott, an African-American who had expressed concern about Mr Trump's comments.

"We had a great talk yesterday," he said of his meeting with Mr Scott. "I think especially in the light of the advent of antifa, if you look at what's going on there. You have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also. And essentially that's what I said."

He said anti-fascist groups known as the "antifa" must share blame for neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan fighting with anti-racism protesters in the streets.

One woman was killed when a suspected white nationalist crashed his car into demonstrators at the rally.

On Thursday, the President also signed a resolution sent to him by Congress that condemned the violence in Charlottesville and rejected white nationalists, white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other hate groups.

Mr Trump said he was "pleased to sign" the measure.

"No matter the colour of our skin or our ethnic heritage, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag and we are all made by the same Almighty God," he said in a statement regarding the resolution.

Lawmakers from Virginia said Congress spoke with "a unified voice" to unequivocally condemn the August unrest.

In Berkeley, California, violence erupted on Aug 27 when a small group of masked antifa and left-wing protesters attacked right-wing demonstrators.

President Trump said: "Now, because of what's happened since then with antifa, you look at really what's happened since Charlottesville.

"A lot of people are saying, in fact a lot of people have actually written, 'Gee, Trump might have a point'."

Mr Trump ran for the White House on a strongly anti-immigrant platform and before becoming president, he repeatedly, and falsely, questioned whether former president Barack Obama was born in the US.

While overt racism is rare in most parts of the US, a significant minority of Americans express racially charged ideas.

A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll showed that 70 per cent of Americans strongly agreed that people of different races should be "free to live wherever they choose" and that "all races are equal".

But 31 per cent of respondents "strongly or somewhat agreed" that the US needs to "protect and preserve its white European heritage".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2017, with the headline 'Charlottesville: Trump blames 'both sides' again'. Print Edition | Subscribe