United States President Donald Trump, often accused of denigrating non-white people, condemned racism Saturday as the nation marked the anniversary of deadly unrest triggered by a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
That protest left one person dead and highlighted the growing boldness of the far right under Trump. Another far-right rally is scheduled for Sunday, right outside the White House.
On Saturday, anti-fascist marchers in Charlottesville held peaceful demonstrations against white supremacy as many people laid flowers on a makeshift memorial to Heather Heyer, who was killed in last year’s violence while protesting the extreme right.
Trump drew scorn after the Charlottesville bloodshed for initially avoiding any condemnation of the torch-bearing white nationalists who took part in that rally.
But on Saturday, he tweeted: “The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division.”
“We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!”
Democrat Mark Warner, a US senator from Virginia, insisted Trump cleared the way for white nationalists to spread “hate and bigotry.”
“These purveyors of hate and bigotry were emboldened to take their message public by a President who has refused to categorically and unequivocally condemn them in clear terms,” he wrote on Twitter.
“We must show that what sets us apart as citizens of this country are our values of respect, openness, and tolerance towards one another.”
Officials declared states of emergency for both the city of Charlottesville and the state of Virginia to help law enforcement mobilize state and local resources for security reasons.
A heavy security presence descended on the city, where concrete barricades and official cars encircled the downtown area, with just two entry points for pedestrians.
Authorities said two people were arrested, one for trespassing and the other for disorderly conduct. Both were released on misdemeanor summons.