As violent clashes erupted Saturday between white nationalist demonstrators and counter-protesters at the "Unite The Right" rally in Charlottesville, President Donald Trump tweeted "there is no place for this kind of violence in America." Although the president did not explicitly mention the city by name, his statement is believed to be a response to the protest currently unfolding in the Virginia college town.
"We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for," the president tweeted Saturday shortly after violence at a white nationalist rally forced city and state officials to declare a state of emergency. "Lets come together as one!"
Earlier in the day, the president had been heavily scrutinized for appearing to remain silent as counter-protesters and white nationalists carrying Confederate flags and torches clashed ahead of Saturday's planned "Unite The Right" rally. Many criticized Trump for failing to condemn the messages of hate and bigotry believed to be behind the white nationalists' rally in Charlottesville.
However, shortly after he issued his first statement, the president took to Twitter again with a brief comment that appeared to be an attempt to explain his earlier silence. "Am in Bedminster for meetings & press conference on V.A. & all that we have done, and are doing, to make it better-but Charlottesville sad!" Trump tweeted.
We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2017
The president had also been accused of inspiring the white nationalists who gathered Saturday in Charlottesville. Former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke told reporters at the "Unite The Right" rally in Charlottesville that the event represented a determination to fulfill the president's promises. "This represents a turning point for the people of this country," video posted to Twitter shows Duke said. "We are determined to take our country back. We're going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump... He said he's going to take our country back and that's what we got to do."
But the president was not the first member of the First Family to speak out about the violence that erupted ahead of Saturday's "Unite The Right" rally. Rather, the president's statement came less than an hour after First Lady Melania Trump issued a statement of her own, in which she condemned both the hate and violence on display in Charlottesville. "Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let's communicate w/o hate in our hearts," the first lady tweeted. "No good comes from violence."
In a reply to the first lady, White nationalist figurehead Richard Spencer argued they were not to be blamed for the violence their rally caused. "We came in peace. It was the government and antifa that used force against peaceful, lawful demonstrators," Spencer tweeted.
Spencer also capitalized on the vagueness of Trump's statement to question whether the president was condemning "antifa" or "the state police that cracked down on peacefully and lawfully assembled demonstrators."