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Major LGBTQ groups denounced the outbreak of violence on Saturday at a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., where white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and other members of the “alt-right” clashed with counter-protesters, leaving three dead and 19 others seriously injured.
The rally was held to protest plans by the city to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. After several skirmishes between alt-right protesters and anti-fascist counter-protesters — most of whom were not Charlottesville residents — broke out, Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency.
During the fracas, which spilled out of Emancipation Park and into the streets of the city, a 20-year-old man rammed a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others, five of them critically. Police later arrested 20-year-old James Alex Fields, of Ohio as a suspect in that crash.
Two Virginia state police attempting to assist law enforcement from a helicopter were also killed after the helicopter crashed. Foul play is not suspected, state police told NBC News.
The following day, rallies were held throughout the country in honor of the victims and for the purpose of protesting against the white supremacists’ messages of hate and division. In D.C. alone, at least three rallies, including one by the World War II Memorial and two separate gatherings at Lafayette Square, in front of the White House.
President Trump issued a statement at a press conference from his country club in Bedminster, N.J., saying: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.”
The President’s response angered many who saw the white supremacists as the primary aggressors in the fight. When asked to clarify what the president meant by “many sides,” a White House official told NBC News that Trump “was condemning hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides. There was violence between protesters and counter protesters today.”
Major LGBTQ organizations condemned the violence as well as the ideology of those at the “Unite the Right” rally, saying such views have no place in civil society. The LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD called attention to a video from the Huffington Post showing members of the alt-right changing, “Fuck you, faggots!” at police and counter-protesters.
GLAAD also called on Trump to more explicitly condemn the violence in Charlottesville, and attributed the violence to “the discriminatory and hateful agenda promoted by President Donald Trump since Day One of his infamous 2016 presidential campaign.”
“GLAAD and countless LGBTQ Americans stand firmly together with other marginalized communities to denounce these disgusting threats and cowardly fear tactics. This is the dangerous culture that having a Bully in Chief in the White House has created,” Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “President Trump needs to take a break from the golf course and show real leadership by condemning hatred and violence in more than 140 characters. And to the young Americans in Charlottesville who are LGBTQ or people of color: you are loved and you are perfect the way you are.”
Other LGBTQ organizations also expressed their solidarity with communities of color who are the targets of white supremacists, and their disgust at the violence and loss of human life.
“The violence we are witnessing is horrifying, but is merely the latest manifestation of the growing racist, anti-immigration, anti-Semitic, sexist and anti-LGBTQ hate in our midst,” Stacey Long Simmons, the director of the advocacy and action department of the National LGBTQ Task Force, said in a statement. “The continuing escalation of hate and white nationalist sentiment we are experiencing during the Trump administration has come to this — targeted violence in the streets of Virginia led by the Klu Klux Klan and Neo-Nazi organizations.
“The National LGBTQ Task Force will not stand by and watch the very fabric of this nation torn apart by hate,” Simmons added. “We will stand with our immigrant, Muslim, African-American, Latino, differently-abled and all marginalized people targeted by the hate and discrimination coming from all directions, from the White House to the streets of Charlottesville.”
The Human Rights Campaign slammed Trump for his lackluster, equivocating response to the violence.
“Hate and bigotry must never be met with silence or half-hearted rebukes,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement, adding that the white supremacists were “emboldened” by Donald Trump’s inflammatory political rhetoric both as candidate for the Oval Office and as president.
“There are no two sides. Donald Trump’s refusal to clearly condemn white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the ‘alt-right’ is a failure of leadership and once again prove him to be unfit to serve,” Griffin said. “All national leaders, from the President and Vice President on down, must explicitly and unequivocally condemn this violent extremism.”
Rachel Tiven, CEO of Lambda Legal, said her organization was “revolted” by the violence on Saturday and on Friday, when torch-wielding mobs descended upon the campus of the University of Virginia for a pre-rally event. But she also praised the “courage” of the counter-protesters who went to Charlottesville to voice their objections to the alt-rights’ messages.
“Racist violence is as old as America. At the center of our struggle as a nation there has always been a battle between subjugation based on white supremacy and ideals of equality of justice for all. The racist, homophobic, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic views so boldly on display this weekend are a cancer on our society,” Tiven said in a statement.
“In the battle for the soul of our nation, LGBT people stand on the side of freedom and justice for all.”
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