Early Saturday morning, a group of interfaith clergy linked arms at the entrance of the “Unite the Right” hatefest in Charlottesville, VA, and chanted, “Love has already won.”
Later, some of those same clergy members would be attacked by white nationalists in what the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) called “the largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades in the United States.” But the rally itself—with its list of young, white, racist men as scheduled speakers—wasn’t to be, as city officials and police declared it unlawful and moved to break it up before it even officially started.
Instead of a peaceful protest, which almost no one expected, the hatefest, organized by Charlottesville resident and white supremacist Jason Kessler and other idiots like him, immediately descended into chaos and violence.
That shouldn’t be a shock to anyone, however. According to the SPLC, the thousands of participants who descended upon this small city belong to “far-right extremist groups— from immigration foes to anti-Semitic bigots, neo-Confederates, Proud Boys, Patriot and militia types, outlaw bikers, swastika-wearing neo-Nazis, white nationalists and Ku Klux Klan members—all of whom seem emboldened by the Trump presidency.”
And they showed up armed and dangerous, brandishing shields, weapons, and homemade pepper spray, according to media reports. This violated a free-speech permit they had obtained to peacefully protest, which was helped along by a lawsuit backed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
After standing by for what seemed like an extremely inappropriate amount of time, police in riot gear finally moved to break up protesters shortly before noon, the scheduled start of the protest.
The focus of the rally at Emancipation Park was the planned removal of a controversial statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. But it was really about the soul of America under Trump, in which racists and bigots feel emboldened by the administration to crawl out from under their rocks and wave Confederate flags and tiki torches around, as they did on Friday night.
Following the violence, city officials declared a local emergency, and later, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency. The city’s mayor called the violence “despicable” and “disgusting,” according to CNN.
“It is now clear that public safety cannot be safeguarded without additional powers, and that the mostly out-of-state protesters have come to Virginia to endanger our citizens and property. I am disgusted by the hatred, bigotry and violence these protesters have brought to our state over the past 24 hours. The actions I have taken are intended to assist local government and restore public safety,” McAuliffe said in a statement.
Several people were injured, including at least two whose injuries were serious, according to local reports. Several demonstrators also were arrested.
This weekend’s violence in Charlottesville has prompted several questions, including why police in riot gear didn’t have a stronger initial presence, and why they didn’t move more swiftly to disarm protesters. Also, where the hell is Attorney General Jeff Sessions? (Oh, that’s right, he’s a racist.)
Finally, where is the president of the United States in light of the “largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades?” On vacation at his golf course in New Jersey, Trump still hadn’t issued a comment about the violence as of this writing.
But first lady Melania Trump did issue a statement on Twitter, strangely, urging people to “communicate w/o hate in our hearts.”
Update, 1:22 p.m.: President Trump has finally tweeted about the racist violence in Charlottesville, VA, in a statement that sounds like the lyrics to “We Are the World”: