Donald Trump's embrace of white supremacists and Nazi sympathizers as high-level White House staff has emboldened hateful bigots across the country.
In a frightening, blatant example of the rise of white nationalism under the Trump administration, white supremacists carried torches and chanted Nazi slogans before attacking a small group of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, Friday night.
Near the University of Virginia’s rotunda, the group of protesters held a sign that read, “UVA Students Against White Supremacy.”
In response, hundreds of armed white supremacists — almost all men — descended upon the university in the dark of night carrying torches, reminiscent of Klan rallies from the 1930s.
Chanting “You will not replace us” — in reference to the efforts to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from Charlottesville’s main square — as well as “White lives matter,” and flashing Nazi salutes, the white supremacists surrounded the circle of protesters.
One of the white nationalist protesters threw a torch into the circle, and another apparently sprayed the student counter-protesters with mace. Ali, a counter-protester who asked that ThinkProgress not identify him further out of fear of retaliation, said he saw pushing and then saw a tiki torch thrown.
“At that point, I felt mace in my eyes and knew that I had to break the line,” he said in an interview. “So I ran.”
In response, Charlottesville Mayor Mike Singer said he was “beyond disgusted” with the torch-lit rally, calling it “a cowardly parade of hatred, bigotry, racism, and intolerance.” And an interfaith gathering locked arms in opposition to the hateful ugliness.
As of now, Donald Trump has not taken to Twitter, his favorite platform, to denounce the violence, bigotry, and hatred, even as the protests and clashes continued Saturday morning.
And the emboldened acts of white supremacists in the Trump era is both abhorrent and, sadly, not surprising.
After all, Trump employs a white supremacist as his chief adviser and a Nazi sympathizer in the White House. And during the election, Trump played coy with figures like David Duke, and won the support of the Ku Klux Klan, who declared of Trump, “A lot of what he believes in, we believe in.”
And Trump has a long, sordid history of inciting and encouraging violence.
In 2016, Trump asked Black Americans and other minorities, “What do you have to lose?” by supporting him.
In 2017, white supremacists are debasing the name and the presence of the White House, and are forming mobs to publicly and proudly attack peaceful protestors.
Guess we have our answer.