THE FAR RIGHT is back on the political map in the USA – and people and politicians are responding to their attempt to rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.
One woman was killed as a right wing maniac drove his car at a crowd of anti-racist demonstrators, one of many which had come out to show their opposition to the hard right rally. She has been named as Heather Heyer, aged 32. She worked as a paralegal and was a highly committed activist, campaigning for social justice across a range of issues. Heather had a public Facebook page until last year: it’s last post said, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise funds for her family. On it her other has commented, “She died doing what was right. My heart is broken, but I am forever proud of her.” Heather’s family called on people across the USA to stand outside their own homes with lit candles at 10pm on Sunday (EST) to make a stand against racism and fascism in Heather’s memory. Other vigils and rallies have been organised spontaneously across the USA.
Other counter-demonstrators required medical treatment for injuries sustained as the car drove at them. The driver has been named as James Alex Fields Jr of Maumee, Ohio. He has been charged with second degree murder, malicious wounding, failure to stop after an accident involving a death, and hit and run. He is due to appear in court on Monday. Fields has been spotted on photographs of demonstrations organised by Vanguard America, a right wing, racist group which believes that the USA should be a whites-only nation – and which has said that Fields was not a member or connected with the group.
The rally also indirectly took the lives of two police officers, who were killed when a police helicopter, which was part of the policing of the rally, crashed.
Attention has also focussed on the political response to the initial demonstration and the protest actions.
There has been considerable anger at President Donald Trump’s response: a rambling verbal statement at a press conference which blamed both sides for hatred and bigotry which led to violence, followed up by a series of tweets on the same lines. Journalists and politicians asked Trump to condemn the white supremacists behind the rally specifically, by name – which he did not do. A rather dim White House spokesperson tried to wriggle out of it – claiming, lamely, that by condemning “both sides”, Trump was implicitly condemning the extreme right because they were one of the “sides”.
There is shock that he has not condemned the white supremacists – even among a number of prominent Republicans. Some people are also beginning to say the unsayable: that the simplistic nationalism Trump used throughout his campaign gifted the white supremacists with the conditions to whip up a large racist campaign.
It was left to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to provide a statespersonlike response. He spoke out at a press conference on Saturday evening, condemning the white nationalists who claimed to be patriots. “Go home,” he said to them. “You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. You are not patriots. You came here today to hurt people and that is not patriotic.” It was an unequivocal speech – standing up for co-operation and multiculturalism and speaking out against the evils of racism. It is just three minutes long and listening to it could be one of the best three minutes of your life.