Donald Trump becomes president of the Confederate States of America
In the photo above, white supremacists including members of the KKK and neo-Nazis, held a torchlight parade in Charlottesville last Friday night. During the action, they intimidated peaceful protesters praying inside a local church, and blocked them from exiting at the end of the service. It was in this group that President Trump said there were a number of "nice people." | Allison Wrabel/AP

NEW YORK—In a statement that rang out like a shot heard ‘round the world, President Donald Trump yesterday defiantly blamed anti-Nazi protesters for much of the violence in Charlottesville, Va., and declared that the KKK and neo-Nazis had been treated “unfairly” by the media.

Trump triggered worldwide outrage Tuesday when he said of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, during which a Nazi sympathizer murdered a counter-protester and two policemen were killed, that there was “blame on both sides.”

Trump insisted that what he called the “alt-left” bore blame for the violence too.

Late in the day Saturday, a 20-year-old Nazi sympathizer, James Fields, plowed his car into a crowd of anti-Nazi protesters, killing one woman and leaving 19 others hospitalized.

Trump shocked the world in a contentious exchange with reporters at New York’s Trump Tower yesterday.

“I think there is blame on both sides,” he said, as John Kelly, his chief of staff, looked down in embarrassment.

Donald Trump, accompanied by Steven Mnuchin, reacts to questions from members of the media in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York on August 15. | AP

“You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that but I’ll say it right now. What about the alt-left(sic) that came charging…at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?… There are two sides to a story.”

Trump’s statements yesterday were almost immediately welcomed by David Duke, the long-time grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan who attended the white supremacist rally on the weekend, telling reporters that the white supremacists were there to fulfill the president’s agenda.

“Thank you President Trump for your honesty and courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville,” Duke said on his Twitter account yesterday.

Many of Trump’s fellow Republicans came out with statements opposing what the president said. But they refrained, for the most part, from singling him out by name, and in all cases refrained from saying anything about the Trump agenda they will continue pushing when they return to Washington after the summer break. That agenda hurts immigrants, people of color, and white working people, as well. If carried out, it is sure to worsen, not improve the racial divide in the country.

“We must be clear, white supremacy is repulsive,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R.-Wisc. “This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.” The Senate’s Republican Majority leader has yet to make any statement, not even one as tepid as Ryan’s.

Democratic politicians insisted that the blame for the violence and killing rests with the KKK and the Nazis.

There was revulsion around the world and even irony when the conservative chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, spoke out against Trump and his defense of Nazis.

Of the torch-wielding crowd of white supremacists that marched on a church in Charlottesville Friday night where a multi-racial group of clergy and others were praying, Trump said there were “fine” people in the crowd and that there were also “many people there to innocently protest and very legally protest the removal of the very important statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.” Of the gun-toting Nazis Trump also said, “They had a permit, the other side did not.”

“I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?” he said, noting that “They too owned slaves.”

“You’re changing history, you’re changing culture,” the president lamented.

Trump demonstrated clearly in New York yesterday that the bullhorn of the presidency is now in the hands of a white supremacist, the president of the United States himself.

Former KKK grand wizard David Duke thanked Trump for his comments at the Trump Tower press conference.

We now have a president who is using the White House to legitimize and air the grievances of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis. The Klan hasn’t had an open defender in the White House in more than 100 years, probably since Woodrow Wilson.

Trump’s remarks were a rejection of advice that came even from a large number of elected officials, including Republican leaders, who had pushed him to forcefully and specifically, by name, condemn the KKK, the Nazis, and white supremacists who terrorized Charlottesville.

Trump showed no sympathy for the family of Heather Heyer, the murdered victim of the neo-Nazis. A friend of Heyer’s told a horrifying story. With tires screeching and bodies flying, Marcus Martin, shoved his fiancée out of the way of the car charging through a crowd of peaceful protesters. Martin was hit and upended as the car plowed through the crowd. Flat on his back and with a broken leg, he said he experienced several minutes of terror.

“The only thing running through my mind was please don’t let her be dead,” Martin, 26, told the Associated Press in an interview, “Please don’t let her be dead.” Marissa Blair, it turned out, was all right even though Martin himself had tumbled over the crashing car that then hit and killed Heather Heyer.

Equating the KKK and the Nazis with the “left” and Black Lives Matter is a major goal of the right-wing extremists at this time. Trump has shown that he is in lockstep with reaching that goal.

Those who try to push that outrageous false equivalency have their backers overseas too. Early this afternoon, Yair Netanyahu, the son of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a right-winger in his own light, came out and tried to make the same point, according to a story in Times of Israel.

“To put things in perspective,” Netanyahu Jr. wrote on Facebook: “I’m a Jew, I’m an Israeli, the neo nazi scums in Virginia hate me and my country. But they belong to the past. Their breed is dying out. However the thugs of Antifa and Black Lives Matter who hate my country and America too in my view are getting stronger and stronger and becoming super dominant in American universities and public life.”

A key point Netanyahu misses is that the president of the United Sates is using the White House and top agencies of government, including the Justice Department, to breathe new life into the neo-Nazis and the KKK and make pieces of their agenda a reality.

In addition, neither Netanyahu nor anyone else, of course, can point to anyone ever killed by Black Lives Matter or Antifa. White supremacists, the KKK, and the Nazis have killed far too many people here and around the world to ever begin to count.

The KKK and the neo-Nazis see Trump’s remarks as a turning point for them. They see his remarks as a signal that the president of the United Sates is behind them. He gives them hope that they may have a shot at regaining the status and political sway they had in the 1920s when 50,000 robed and hooded Klansmen marched down Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue.

They see Trump as willing to rescue them from the political fringes and bring them into the front and center of the political arena. It emboldens them and, unfortunately, we can probably expect more of the kind of marches we saw in Charlottesville.

The anti-Klan and anti-Nazi movements, however, are coming out against this plan and linking their opposition to the white supremacists to the need to fight the entire right-wing political agenda—including mass deportation of immigrants, the so-called war on drugs, voter suppression, and all the other reactionary policies of the last few decades that have been put forward consistently by the so-called “respectable” Republicans.

Another very important point was made by the Rev. William Barber. He spoke to the fact that many of those who voted for Trump actually want no part of these extremist right-wing groups.

“White nationalists don’t care about white America…they don’t support living wages for the working poor, they don’t support health care for the working poor. They support the kind of policies that would take these things away from people.”


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.