Democratic, GOP Leaders Rebuke Charlottesville Violence

American political leaders reacted with outrage and condemnation on Saturday after violence erupted at a white nationalist march on the University of Virginia’s campus in Charlottesville.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency on Saturday morning at the request of Virginia State Police after Friday night skirmishes between hundreds of white nationalists and neo-Nazis who held a torchlit march at a controversial statute of Robert E. Lee on the university campus and dozens of counter-protesters.

Members of Congress denounced the violence on Saturday, which erupted at one of the highest profile white-nationalist events in more than a decade. “The views fueling the spectacle in Charlottesville are repugnant,” Speaker Paul Ryan wrote on Twitter. “Let it only serve to unite Americans against this kind of vile bigotry.” Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, said the “hate and bigotry” espoused by the march’s participants “does not reflect American values.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer went further and demanded President Trump condemn the protests. “Of course we condemn ALL that hate stands for,” Schumer wrote on Twitter. “Until [the president] specifically condemns alt-right action in Charlottesville, he hasn’t done his job.” Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House leader, urged Americans more broadly to rebuke the protesters in Charlottesville.

Trump, whose candidacy received enthusiastic support from far-right groups, also criticized the march. “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for,” he wrote on Twitter. “There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Let’s come together as one!” In a subsequent tweet, the president said he was working at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey on veterans’ health care issues, adding, “but Charlottesville sad!”

Some elected officials sought to downplay the protesters’ influence and power. Florida Senator Marco Rubio described them on Twitter as “agitators in search of relevance & publicity for a vile cause very few people support.” He urged the public to respond with unity. “Can’t ignore them, but also don’t give them relevance they crave,” he added. “Only way they win is if they can turn the rest of us against each other.”

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders drew links between the Charlottesville violence and an nationwide increase in hate crimes over the past year, which some experts have attributed to Trump’s election as president. “While this incident is alarming, it is not surprising,” Sanders said on Twitter. “Hate crimes and shows of hostility toward minorities have recently been surging. Now more than ever we must stand together against those who threaten our brothers and sisters.”

Others were even more pugnacious. John Dingell, a retired Michigan congressman and one of the last World War II veterans to serve in the House of Representatives, said he would fight Nazis against “if I have to.”

Virginia’s congressional delegation, for its part, tried to distinguish between the protesters and the state’s residents. “People who came to VA to spew hate & incite violence have no place here,” Senator Tim Kaine, the former Democratic vice-presidential nominee, wrote on Twitter. “We stand for inclusion and will not go backwards. Praying for peace.”