President Donald Trump blamed the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” for the violence in Charlottesille, Virginia that left at least one dead after a car ramming attack on a crowd.
“We have to heal the wounds of our country. These are wounds that have been going on for a very long time,” Trump also said in the statement. “…I love the people of our country. I love all of the people of our country. We’re going to make America great again, but we’re going to make it great for all the people of America.”
Trump condemned the violence, but his statement sparked strong criticism because he did not call out or refer to the white nationalists or refer to the car ramming attack as domestic terrorism or a terror attack. Even some in the president’s own party are unhappy.
Authorities accuse James Alex Fields Jr. of driving the car that rammed into the crowd. He registered to vote as a Republican in 2016 and is a 20-year-old from Ohio. According to The Washington Post, he was booked on suspicion of second-degree murder, malicious wounding, failure to stop for an accident involving a death, and hit-and-run.
Watch the statement here. Trump starts speaking at about 35 minutes in:
Cornell Brooks, former president of the NAACP, told CNN he was disappointed in Trump’s statement because it evoked a moral equivalency between white nationalists and other protesters at the scene, and Trump did not use the terms KKK or white nationalist in his statement. Another CNN commentator critical of the speech said it will likely be known as the “many sides” speech.
As news screens and social media filled with videos of violent clashes between white nationalists, who were rallying in Charlottesville, chosen because of its removal of Confederate symbols, and counter-protesters, Trump broke into a press conference about veterans to address Charlottesville, including an incident in which a car rammed into a crowd. The identity of the person behind the car ramming has not yet been released.
The president didn’t mention the white nationalists specifically who are rallying in Charlottesville, although he did bring up Barack Obama, unemployment and trade in addressing the issue. The governor of Virginia has declared a state of emergency as the clashes broke out before the “Unite the Right” rally of white nationalists and others on the alt-right.
According to CNN, in addition to the car ramming attack, “fistfights and screaming matches erupted” at the scene as counter-protesters and white nationalists clashed.
Trump said, “We’re closely following the terrible events… we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long time. What’s vital now is a swift restoration of law and order…no citizen should fear for their safety and security in our society.”
He talked about employment figures and trade deals and said “we have companies pouring into our country….we have so many incredible things happening in our country. So when I watch Charlottesville, to me it’s very very sad.” He credited law enforcement in Charlottesville and the National Guard.
“No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are all Americans first. We love our country. We love our God. We love our flag. We’re proud of our country. We’re proud of who we are. So we want to get this situation straightened out in Charlottesville, and we want to study it. We want to see where we’re going wrong as a country,” Trump said.
“Our citizens must restore the bonds of trust and loyalty between one another,” the president added. “…We have to respect each other. Ideally we have to love each other.”