Commentary: Hate groups no longer hide behind sheets and hoods
WASHINGTON -- The white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan armies that took to the streets last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, have declared war on America.
It began with what was billed as a “Unite the Right” rally to block the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from newly renamed Emancipation Park, with participants marching in a torchlight parade reminiscent of the Hitler Youth demonstrations in Nazi Germany, as others waved Confederate flags, brandished Nazi symbols and shouted anti-Semitic epithets.
But then it quickly turned into hand-to-hand combat with counter-protesters opposed to their evil, hateful, bigoted, white supremacist ideology. The bloody battle grew in intensity, spreading into side streets of this once-peaceful university town.
One neo-Nazi youth drove his 2010 gray Dodge Challenger into crowds of people along a pedestrian mall, as bodies went flying, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring 19 others. The driver was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.
In a horrific riot, described by one headline as “a day of rage, hate, violence and death,” America woke up Sunday to the realization that a sizable number of people across our land were waging a racist war against minorities and the very fabric of America’s values.
President Trump condemned the hate groups by name, emphatically declaring that the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and all the other hate groups were “repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
Cutting short his 17-day, working vacation at his private golf resort in New Jersey, Trump returned to the White House, promising that those who incited violence would be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
“Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups,” he said.
However, these tough words came two days after his first tepid response to the riots when he blamed both sides equally for the violence that ensued, and did not cite the Klan, neo-Nazis and white nationalists by name.
Then, in an inexplicable turnaround Tuesday, Trump returned to his original “both sides” argument.
“I think there is blame on both sides,” he told a raucous news conference. There were “very fine people on both sides.”
Before he uttered those beliefs, others in the Trump administration had already weighed in with actions and condemnations of their own on Saturday.
The FBI field office in Richmond and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Virginia announced that they had begun a civil rights investigation into the driver of the car that rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions also released a very tough statement of his own: “The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice,” he said. “When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.”
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe had declared a state of emergency and then delivered this message to “all the white supremacists and the Nazis who came to Charlottesville today: Go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth.”
A shaken city manager, Maurice Jones, said that “Hate came to our town today in a way that we had feared but we had never really let ourselves imagine would.”
But the white nationalist website, The Daily Stormer, which heavily promoted the rally, made it clear this week that it isn’t folding its tent or going home. Their war is just getting started and going national.
“We are going to start doing this nonstop across the country,” read a recent post on the website. “We are going to go bigger than Charlottesville. We are going to go huge.”
The post further declared, “We are now at war,” and threatened to “take over the country,” according to the Business Insider.
That’s when the web registration service GoDaddy, which registers domain names for 71 million websites around the world, had had enough and threw the Daily Stormer site out of its systems in the aftermath of the violence.
But the bigger battle is just beginning. Reuters news service reported Tuesday that “municipal leaders across the U.S. said they would step up efforts to pull (Confederate) monuments from public spaces.”
The mayors of Baltimore and Lexington, Kentucky, say they will move ahead with plans to remove statues, joined by officials in Memphis, Tennesee; Jacksonville, Florida; and other cities around the country.
Meanwhile, in Boston, someone hurled a rock through a glass panel at the New England Holocaust Memorial -- the second act of anti-Jewish vandalism at the site in less than three months.
The neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville chanted “Jews will not replace us.”
This is the ugly message of evil and hatred that these people are plotting to deliver throughout our country in their declared war on America.
Donald Lambro has been covering Washington politics for more than 50 years as a reporter, editor and commentator.