3.3.1. Introduction:A tragedy happened on the 11th of August 2017.
A big group of alternative right members protested against the removal of the statue of general Robert E. Lee and as a result a big clash occurred between the alternative right and the Antifa. Multiple people got injured and three people died. What was the cause of the rally and what were the outside reactions?3.3.2. What happened:In March 2016, the vice mayor of Charlottesville Wes Bellamy asked the Charlottesville City Council to remove the statue of Robert E.Lee and rename the park where it was located.
A notable part of the community found the presence of the statue disrespectful and people refused to walk in the park until the statue was removed and the park was renamed. Petitions were started in to furthermore encourage the city council to remove the statue. People used the history of Robert Lee as argument and they believed that the statue represented hate and racism.Between March 2016 and May 2017, multiple commissions were held to furthermore discuss the issues surrounding the statue about general Lee in Lee Park. Numerous votes happened during this period and every time the City Council chose to remove the statue.
The removal got delayed several times because of lawsuits which were primarily started by the Monument Fund Inc and the Sons of Confederate Veterans. During the lawsuit the City Council was accused of violating a state law which protects American Civil War monuments and memorials. The City Council denied the accusations, their reasoning being that the statue was not protected by this state law. A series of protest followed after the definitive decision to remove the statue starting on May 13, 2017, when Richard B. Spencer protested against the removal of the statue. Spencer acquired a group and started a torch-lit rally and repeatedly shouted “Jews will not replace us” and “Russia is our friend”.
Another rally started on the 8th of July. The rally was held by a group of around 50 members of the racist Ku Klux Klan. The rally didn’t last long because of an interference from the police. At the end a lot of members were arrested and the rally came to an end.
Another rally for the removal of the statue was planned for August 2017. The rally was organized by ultra-nationalist Jason Kessler and the rally was planned for Saturday, August 12. On Friday however, the rally had already begun. Protesters were yelling “white lives matter” and “blood and soil”.
The next day on the 12th of August, the protesters resumed their protest and clashed with counter-demonstrators. There was a lot of tension and people began to become violent and the city of Charlottesville declared a state of emergency.A few hours later a car rammed into anti-racist protesters. The car injured 19 people and killed the 32 year old Heather Heyer. The driver, James Alex Field Jr was arrested by the police and charged with second degree murder. Two state troopers, who were keeping an eye on the rally from a helicopter, died on the same die in a mysterious helicopter crash.3.3.
3. What are the consequences?:In the following days a lot of criticism started to rise against the handling of the police during the Charlottesville rally. People said that the rally was very dangerous and that there was a lot of violence and that the police just stood there and did not do enough to stop it. Some people agreed that the police department should have done more about it. The executive director of the Virginia ACLU also said that “the situation was preventable.” The Charlottesville police chief Al Thomas reacted to the statements made by criticizers saying that he regrets the planning made by the police officers, but that the police officers had done their best at separating the protesters and counter protesters, but initially were unable to do so because of the big crowd. Jason Kessler, the ultra-nationalist who organized the rally, tried to speak about the tragic rally in a press conference, but was eventually forced to leave the conference after being attacked by someone in the crowd.
Kessler stated that he disavows any political violence and that the rally that occured the day before was tragic. Kessler was later that day found posting videos online where he blamed the city for the violence and the death of Heather Heyer.Online there were a lot of responses towards the rally. Paypal suspended multiple accounts of alt-right members who organized the rally. The organizers were banned because they raised funds for hateful activities and the spreading of hate. The popular hack group Anonymous also responded on the rally. They removed several websites which were associated with the Ku Klux Klan, as a response to the tragic rally in Charlottesville. Anonymous furthermore hacked an alt-right website called Red Ice TV, and they also removed a discussion forum of alt-right members.
Multiple politics also responded to the rally. One of the politics who responded was Terry MCAuliffe, the governor of Virginia. MCAuliffe stated together with the mayor and police chief of Charlottesville that they do not condemn violence and that the white supremacists and nazi’s are not wanted in their community. The chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, and the justice minister Heiko Maas both reacted to the events that happened in Charlottesville. They called the violence horrifying and said that forceful action must be taken against the racist, violent far-right.
3.3.4. Can we link Trump’s Presidency to the riots?:We have not found a direct link between Trump’s Presidency and the Charlottesville rally. Trump’s Presidency and his more right ideals and statements have however given a boost to the followers of the alt-right which have indirectly lead them to being more confident in their beliefs and ultimately organizing more protests and rally’s.
Donald Trump also responded to the tragic in Charlottesville. Trump stated that there is no place for violence in America and that everyone should come together as one. Furthermore, the American president added that he and the white house condemn, in the strongest possible terms the extreme behaviour that was showed by “many sides”. Trump was later criticized by several parties for not calling out the white supremacists and the neo nazi’s.3.
3.5. ConclusionThe Charlottesville rally has shown how far people of both sides are willing to go to show that what they believe in is right. The rally has shown that it is impossible at this moment for both sides to protest in peace and the only result from the protests are violence and anger. There has to be made a lot of change in the political environment before these two groups can peacefully debate the differences in their beliefs.