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People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. on Aug. 12.
People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. on Aug. 12.

Racial Violence Tests Trump’s Mettle

Both as a candidate and as president, Trump has met with charges that he has courted the support of white supremacists and nationalists, the so-called “alt-right,” as a key part of his passionate voter base

Racial Violence Tests Trump’s Mettle

For President Donald Trump, this was the week when the real world began to intrude upon his presidency.
The violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white nationalists and counter-protesters confronted Trump with perhaps the first true domestic crisis of his young administration. And to some, even within his own Republican Party, he came up short, news outlets reported.
It followed days of blustery threats toward North Korea that rattled some Americans and unnerved allies. Both are the kinds of white-knuckle challenges that define presidents - and which Trump largely has avoided during the first months of his tenure.
A car rammed into a crowd of protesters and a state police helicopter crashed into the woods Saturday as tension boiled over at a white supremacist rally. The violent day left three dead, dozens injured and this usually quiet college town a bloodied symbol of the nation’s roiling racial and political divisions.
The chaos erupted around what is believed to be the largest group of white nationalists to come together in a decade —including neo-Nazis, skinheads, members of the Ku Klux Klan— who descended on the city to “take America back” by rallying against plans to remove a Confederate statue. Hundreds came to protest against the racism. There were street brawls and violent clashes; the governor declared a state of emergency, police in riot gear ordered people out and helicopters circled overhead.
As images of rising tensions and a deadly car rampage in Charlottesville filled TV screens nationwide, the president was criticized first for waiting too long to address the violence and then, when he did so, failing to explicitly condemn the white-supremacist marchers who ignited the melee.
Marco Rubio, a Republican senator who was Trump's rival for the presidential nomination, quickly suggested Trump's initial response was inadequate.
On Twitter, Rubio wrote that it was, "Very important for the nation to hear [Trump] describe events in Charlottesville for what they are: a terror attack by #whitesupremacists.”
Trump has spent this week at his tony golf club in New Jersey, attempting to show the American public that he is indeed working and not vacationing. He held one event after the other, while answering media questions with an approachability he hasn’t shown for months.
Yet, when news of the situation in Charlottesville first started filtering out on Friday, Trump was silent. He first addressed the matter — through a tweet — on Saturday afternoon, after a planned white-supremacist rally had been dispersed, fights had broken out, and a state of emergency declared.
By the time Trump finally appeared before reporters at a staged bill-signing event at his club, footage of a car speeding up and slamming into a crowd of protesters had swamped social media and cable networks, raising the specter of domestic terrorism.
At a podium, Trump read a statement rebuking the violence, but without specifically mentioning or faulting the role of white nationalists.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides - on many sides,” Trump said, ignoring shouted questions from reporters as to whether he would denounce white supremacism and whether the car incident constituted terrorism.
***Republican Senators Question Response
Beyond Rubio, Trump’s response apparently also was not enough for Senator Cory Gardner, who chairs the Republican Party’s senate-election effort. “Mr. President, we must call evil by its name,” he tweeted. “These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.”
Republican Orrin Hatch said "We should call evil by its name. My brother didn't give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home," he said on Twitter.
Democratic Senator Brian Schatz said that Trump had not demonstrated moral leadership. “There are NOT many sides to this,” he wrote.
Both as a candidate and as president, Trump has met with charges that he has courted the support of white supremacists and nationalists, the so-called “alt-right,” as a key part of his passionate voter base.
He was forced at one point last year to publicly denounce the Ku Klux Klan and one of its leaders, David Duke. After Trump was elected, he installed Steve Bannon, a trusted figure in nationalist circles and former chairman of the hard-right outlet Breitbart News, as a top adviser in the White House.
***Social Media Users Slam Trump
Social media users lambasted Trump over his reaction to the deadly violence in Charlottesville.
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.
"Trump won't say the words "white nationalist terrorists" because that describes his voters, staff, family, and self," said a Twitter user.
"If a Muslim drove that car in #Charlottesville, Trump would call it terrorism and millions of Muslims would be bracing for the backlash," said another user.

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