Local Reaction Mounts In Response To Deadly Violence In Virginia

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Residents in New York gathered this weekend in response to the violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and on Sunday, Governor Andrew Cuomo echoed criticism of President Trump for not explicitly denouncing white supremacists in the aftermath of the deadly clashes.

Hundreds of people gathered in Union Square in a show of solidarity with 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was killed when James Alex Fields Jr., of Ohio, rammed his car into a crowd just before 1:45 p.m.

At least 35 others were injured, authorities said.

A Black Lives Matter group organized the impromptu Saturday rally. Many people carried signs denouncing the violence in Charlottesville.

A rally was also held in Columbus Circle on Sunday.

Rally Held In New York After Charlottesville Violence

Protesters also march from Union Square and gathered Sunday evening outside Trump Tower, ahead of President Donald Trump’s return to New York City on Monday.

In Newark, a rally was held to denounce the events in Virginia Saturday, and Trump’s response.

“There’s been a wave of racial and bias-motivated violence in this country going all the way back to the campaign period,” said Lawrence Hamm, Chairman of the People’s Organization For Progress “A lot has to do with rhetoric used during the campaign.”

An interfaith worship service was also held Sunday at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. The Rev. Calvin Butts was joined by Jewish and Muslim clergymembers.

They all condemned acts of bigotry and racism by members of white supremacist groups, as did area lawmakers this weekend.

“My colleagues on both sides of the aisles, Republicans and Democrats, have been very critical of the president for his failure to denounce the white supremacists that spawned this act of domestic terrorism,” Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) tells WCBS 880.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Saturday denounced the racism and the violence perpetuated by white nationalists.

Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy all released statements condemning the hate filled rally and violence that followed in Virginia Saturday.

On Sunday, Cuomo launched a petition “demanding President Trump acknowledges this hate for what it is: domestic terrorism.”

“After the deadly and ugly events in Charlottesville I am calling on President Trump to clearly and unequivocally denounce the violent protest organized by the white supremacists and neo-Nazis, including Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler, with support from David Duke. President Trump must immediately call this for what it is – no cover, no euphemisms. This was a terror attack by white supremacists,” the governor said.

At Sunday’s Dominican Day Parade in the city, de Blasio echoed the governor’s call for the president to speak more forcefully against white supremacist groups.

“This is a president who clearly speaks in blunt terms on many topics,” Hizzoner said.

De Blasio added that Trump cannot continue to pull his punches when it comes to the white nationalist movement.

“The president of the United States needs to do more,” he said. “President Trump needs to speak out. He needs to say this was an act of domestic terror.”

The president is drawing criticism from Republicans and Democrats for not explicitly denouncing white supremacists in the aftermath of violent clashes in Virginia, with lawmakers saying he needs to take a public stand against groups that espouse racism and hate.

Trump, while on a working vacation at his New Jersey golf club, addressed the nation Saturday soon after a car plowed into a group of anti-racist counter-protesters in Charlottesville, a college town where neo-Nazis and white nationalists had assembled for march. The president did not single out any group, instead blaming “many sides” for the violence.

“Hate and the division must stop, and must stop right now,” he said. “We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation and … true affection for each other.”

Trump condemned “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” He added: “It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long, long time.”

He did not answer questions from reporters about whether he rejected the support of white nationalists or whether he believed the car crash was an example of domestic terrorism. Aides who appeared on the Sunday news shows said the White House did believe those things, but many fellow Republicans demanded that Trump personally denounce the white supremacists.

 

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., tweeted: “Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.”

Added Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.: “Nothing patriotic about #Nazis,the #KKK or #WhiteSupremacists It’s the direct opposite of what #America seeks to be.”

On the Democrat side, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York said “of course we condemn ALL that hate stands for. Until @POTUS specifically condemns alt-right action in Charlottesville, he hasn’t done his job.”

The president’s only public statement early Sunday was a retweet saluting two Virginia state police officers killed in helicopter crash after being dispatched to monitor the Charlottesville clashes.

The previous day, Trump tweeted condolences to those officers soon after the helicopter crashed. His tweet sending condolences to the woman killed in the protests came more than five hours after the incident.

Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said Sunday that he considered the attack in Charlottesville to be terrorism:

“I certainly think anytime that you commit an attack against people to incite fear, it is terrorism,” McMaster told ABC’s “This Week.”

“It meets the definition of terrorism. But what this is, what you see here, is you see someone who is a criminal, who is committing a criminal act against fellow Americans.”

The president’s homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, defended the president’s statement by suggesting that some of the counter-protesters were violent too.

When pressed, he specifically condemned the racist groups. The president’s daughter and White House aide, Ivanka Trump, tweeted Sunday morning: “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis.”

White nationalists had assembled in Charlottesville to vent their frustration against the city’s plans to take down a statue of Confederal Gen. Robert E. Lee. Counter-protesters massed in opposition. A few hours after violent encounters between the two groups, a car drove into a crowd of people peacefully protesting the rally. The driver was later taken into custody.

Alt-right leader Richard Spencer and former Ku Klux Klan member David Duke attended the demonstrations. Duke told reporters that the white nationalists were working to “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.”

Trump’s speech also drew praise from the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, which wrote: “Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. … No condemnation at all.”

The website had been promoting the Charlottesville demonstration as part of its “Summer of Hate” edition.

Mayor Michael Signer, a Democrat, said he was disgusted that the white nationalists had come to his town and blamed Trump for inflaming racial prejudices with his campaign last year.

“I’m not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you’re seeing in American today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president,” he said.

Trump, as a candidate, frequently came under scrutiny for being slow to offer his condemnation of white supremacists. His strongest denunciation of the movement has not come voluntarily, only when asked, and he occasionally trafficked in retweets of racist social media posts during his campaign. His chief strategist, Steve Bannon, once declared that his former news site, Breitbart, was “the platform for the alt-right.”

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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