One of the men who helped organize the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, says the deadly event wouldn’t have happened without Donald Trump.
As Yahoo News reports, Richard Spencer, one of the organizers of the rally, which resulted in the death of a counterprotester, said that the emergence of Donald Trump as a political figure energized him and like-minded groups, now collectively known as the “alt-right.”
“There is no question that Charlottesville wouldn’t have occurred without Trump. It really was because of his campaign and this new potential for a nationalist candidate who was resonating with the public in a very intense way.”
Back in August 2017, the “Unite the Right” rally was organized, ostensibly to protest the removal of a statue of a Confederate general from a city park. However, it seemed right away, based on white supremacist and Nazi regalia and symbolism present, that the rally wasn’t just about the statue. It was, in a larger sense, likely about white nationalism and white power.
By nightfall, the news was filled with images and video of angry white men holding torches and chanting anti-minority and anti-Semitic chants.
By the second day of the rally, things had turned violent.
It started small, with protesters and counterprotesters getting into fisticuffs. Then it turned fatal when white supremacist James Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer.
Amid the carnage, Donald Trump said of the deadly rally that there were “very fine people on both sides.”
Spencer said that he was “very proud of Trump at that moment,” saying he was “being honest” and calling it as he saw it.
The criticism that Donald Trump’s presidency has energized an element that had previously been mostly dormant — this is, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, white nationalists, and similarly-inclined far-right groups — has been leveled before.
As CNN reported in 2018, words like “invasion” and “nationalist” are frequently heard from Trump himself and from administration officials, and white nationalists have taken that rhetoric as a rallying cry. For example, consider the words of Andrew Anglin, founder of white supremacist website The Daily Stormer. Following the 2018 election, in which Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives and picked up seats in the Senate, Anglin was convinced the results betrayed a looming problem.
“It cleared away any of the remaining fog of confusion about what exactly we are dealing with in this country. This is a race war. Period.”
For Spencer, there is little doubt that Trump is the reason individuals like himself are becoming relevant again.
“The alt-right found something in Trump,” he says.