Trump orders civil rights investigation of race-fueled violence in Charlottesville

The crowd outside the White House protest President Trump's Charlottesville comment upon his return to Washington for one day from his working vacation at his golf resort in New Jersey. Photo by Ron Russek II/CNHI

Ron Russek II

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Donald Trump said Monday the Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend that resulted in the death of one person and the injury of 20 others.

“To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence, you will be held fully accountable,” Trump said in a written statement read at the White House. “Justice will be delivered.”

The president flew to Washington earlier in the day from a respite at his luxury golf resort in New Jersey only to be met by protesters outside the White House objecting to his Saturday comments broadly condemning bigotry. They said he did not specifically mention the white supremacist groups that gathered in Charlottesville, leading to the death of Heather Heyer, 32, a local counter-protester, and the wounding of many others. Two Virginia state troopers also died when their surveillance helicopter crashed.

Trump got specific Monday.

“Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” said Trump.

“We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal. We are equal in the eyes of our Creator. We are equal under the law. And we are equal under our Constitution.”

Trump was under pressure from Democrats and Republicans to speak out and act more decisively on the Charlottesville violence even though his assistants and cabinet members defended his initial comments.

White supremacist groups had gathered in Charlottesville to protest the city’s decision to remove a statue of Confederacy General Robert E. Lee from a municipal park. Clashes occurred with counter-protesters and at one point, a car plowed into the crowd of the latter, killing Heather Heyer, 32, a paralegal from Charlottesville, and injuring several others.

Arrested on a second-degree murder charge was James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Maumee, Ohio, who police said drove his Dodge Challenger recklessly and deliberately into the counter-protesters. He had been photographed earlier in the day with a neo-Nazi group.

A judge denied bail to Fields on Monday during his initial court appearance via video. He is also charged with three counts of malicious wounding and one count of hit-and-run.

Trump delivered his White House remarks Monday from the Diplomatic Reception Room. He said he returned to Washington from his respite in New Jersey to work on trade agreements and tax reform. He also praised his administration’s economic progress before turning to the Charlottesville violence.

“As I said on Saturday,” he stated, “we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America.

“And as I have said many times before,” Trump continued, “no matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws. We all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God. We must love each other, show affection for each other and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry and violence. We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans.”

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