Charlottesville: Trump reverts to blaming both sides including ‘violent alt-left’

US president defends far-right marchers and equates Confederate generals with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson

Donald Trump has once again defended far-right protesters at the Charlottesville rally, saying they were not all neo-Nazis and white supremacists and laying the blame for the violence equally on what he called the alt-left.

The remarks made during a rowdy press conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York were Trumps latest switch in stance since Saturday, when the civil rights activist Heather Heyer died after a white nationalist allegedly drove his car into a crowd in the Virginian city.

The US president was fiercely criticised for failing to condemn white supremacists in his initial response to Charlottesville, when he blamed the violence on many sides. On Monday, after a chorus of disapproval, he gave an apparently reluctant statement denouncing racism as evil.

Quick Guide

What happened at the Charlottesville protests?

Guide

What happened in Charlottesville on 12 August?

White nationalists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest against a plan to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederacys top general in the American civil war.

Demonstrators chanted racist statements, carried antisemitic placards and held torches during the Unite the Right rally, which was organised by white nationalist Jason Kessler.

The march was met by anti-fascist demonstrators, and some skirmishes broke out before James Fields, 20, allegedly ploughed a car into a group of counter-demonstrators.

Civil rights activist Heather Heyer, 32, died and others were injured. Fields has been charged with murder.

But on Tuesday he reverted to drawing a moral equivalency between the far right and the counter-demonstrators.

Im not putting anybody on a moral plane, he said. You had a group on one side and group on the other and they came at each other with clubs there is another side, you can call them the left, that came violently attacking the other group. You had people that were very fine people on both sides.

Not all those people were neo-Nazis, not all those people were white supremacists. Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E Lee. So this week, it is Robert E Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?

While all four men were slaveholders, neither Washington nor Jefferson rebelled against the US in an attempt to protect the institution of slavery from federal interference.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/15/donald-trump-press-conference-far-right-defends-charlottesville