Social media users have lambasted US President Donald Trump over his reaction to deadly violence in the US city of Charlottesville as far-right activists took to the streets and clashed with counter-protesters. 

After one person was killed and several injured in a car ramming that hit anti-racist demonstrators on Saturday, Trump said in a press conference: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”

Speaking from his private golf club in New Jersey, he said: “It has been going on for a long time in our country – not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.”

Organised by far-right public figure Jason Kessler, a former journalist, Saturday’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was slated as one of the largest white supremacist rallies in the country’s recent history. 

The rally brought out groups such as the alt-right, the National Socialist Movement, the Traditionalist Worker Party, the neo-Confederate League of the South and Identity Evropa, among other white supremacist and far-right groups. 

Unite the Right was called in response to the city’s decision earlier this year to remove a statue of Robert E Lee, the foremost Confederate military leader in the US Civil War. 

READ MORE: Unite the Right – White supremacists rally in Virginia

Throughout the day, far-right activists clashed with counter-protesters, using pepper spray, batons and makeshift weapons. 

As an anti-racist march made its way through downtown Charlottesville, a motorist slammed into a group of protesters. Video footage of the incident showed bodies flying as others hit the ground. 

‘Vague concept of badness’ 

Twitter users quickly responded to Trump’s comments. Many of them accused Trump of intentionally neglecting to blame the far-right activists for the violence. 

Others derided Trump for his apparent double standard when it comes to acts of violence committed by white supremacists and those carried out by Muslims. 

In the past, Trump has condemned “radical Islamic terrorism” on several occasions. 

US Senator Corey Gardner, who is a member of Trump’s Republican Party, called on the president to call the violence in Charlottesville “domestic terrorists”. 

Increasing clashes 

Unite the Right was the third rally of its kind in Charlottesville throughout the last four months. 

In May, Richard Spencer, a leader of the alt-right – a movement that includes white supremacists and neo-Nazis – led a group of torch-wielding protesters at the Robert E Lee statue in Charlottesville. 

Along with Traditionalist Worker Party leader Matthew Heimbach and white supremacist podcaster Mike Peinovich, Spencer was scheduled to speak at Saturday’s rally. 

Far-right groups supported Trump’s campaign and celebrated his electoral victory last November, seeing common cause in his efforts to limit immigration and repeal affirmative action, among other policies.

David Duke, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist organisation, praised Trump while speaking to reporters at Saturday’s rally. 

READ MORE: Alt-right rally – Charlottesville braces for violence

“This represents a turning point for the people of this country,” he said. “We are determined to take our country back. We’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump … because he said he’s going to take our country back. And that’s what we’ve got to do.”

Pointing to white supremacist groups’ support for Trump, other social media users mocked Trump’s statement. 

In the 10 days following Trump’s election alone, the Southern Poverty Law Center monitor recorded an average of 87 hate incidents a day. That number is five times the daily average of hate crimes recorded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2015.

Saturday’s events come after months of increasing clashes between far-right activists and anti-fascists in cities across the country. 

On Friday, hundreds of white supremacists marched at the University of Virginia, also located in Charlottesville, and clashed with a small group of students who held a counter-protest. 

The white supremacist group chanted “white lives matter” and “blood and soil”. 

Other white supremacist marchers yelled: “You will not replace us.” 

Source: Al Jazeera News

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