President Donald Trump on Saturday used one of his morning Twitter missives to acknowledge that the weekend marks the first anniversary of Charlottesville, Virginia’s deadly white nationalist rally and to condemn racism in America.
“The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division,” the president said from his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf resort.
“We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!”
The 2017 Charlottesville rally, which drew white supremacists and neo-Nazis, was originally intended to protest the planned removal of a statue depicting Confederate General Robert E. Lee that still stands.
Trump’s words contrast sharply with his first public comments on the events last summer, which left 32-year-old anti-racist counterprotester Heather Heyer dead after a suspected white nationalist plowed his car into a crowd on Aug. 12, 2017.
The president infamously blamed protesters “on many sides” for the conflict instead of specifically criticizing the racist sentiment that spurred the tragedy. Speaking to press in the days that followed, Trump stated, “You have people who are very fine people on both sides.”
His apparent refusal to condemn neo-Nazis and violent white nationalist groups elicited strong bipartisan pushback.
One year removed, many say the president still employs racist rhetoric, illustrated in part by his continual criticism of black NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality and social inequality.
Activists in Charlottesville plan a rally against hate on Saturday, and many of the same alt-right groups that appeared in last year’s “Unite the Right” rally are planning a sequel in Washington, D.C., on Sunday. Ahead of the weekend, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency for the state, authorizing the Virginia National Guard to help keep the peace.