And it is ugly . What we are witnessing in Charlottesville, VA are the results of Trump’s racist, xenophobic, misogynistic rhetoric having emboldened the worst elements of society. Unfortunately this will not be the last because Trump’s administration will do nothing to disavow them but will continue to send signals that he is on their side.
In the middle of Emancipation Park in Charlottesville on Saturday, two young women, one white and one black, took each other’s hands and held them tightly, and with their other hands they gripped the steel barrier in front of them.
A few feet away, a young white man with a buzzed haircut and sunglasses leaned towards them over a facing barrier. “You’ll be on the first f*****g boat home,” he screamed at the black woman, before turning to the white woman. “And as for you, you’re going straight to hell,” he said. Then he gave a Nazi salute.
For the third time in a few months, white nationalists had descended on the small, liberal city of Charlottesville in Virginia, to protest against the planned removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E Lee.
This time they came under the banner of the so-called “alt-right”, for a rally they called “Unite the Right”. They were a motley crew of militia, racists, and neo-Nazis, and some who said they simply wanted to defend their Southern history.
They gathered early in the morning at Emancipation Park – formerly Lee Park – where the statue sits, some dressed in full tactical gear and openly carrying rifles. Others wore black shirts, helmets, and boots.
In a column they surged into the park, using sticks and their fists to shove aside anti-fascist counter-protesters. Then they blocked off the entrance with shields. Inside, David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, grinned and waved as the crowd, almost entirely white and male, cheered him on, chanting his name and putting their arms up in Nazi salutes.
In the park, in a pen ringed by steel barriers, they shouted anti-immigrant, anti-semitic and racist slogans and targeted white women counter-protesters, calling them “traitors” who “needed to get subjugated”. Outside, anti-fascist protesters threw bottles of water at the white nationalists and chanted “Off our streets, Nazi scum”. Pepper spray, used by both sides, filled the air.
The speakers booked for the rally in Charlottesville were all men. The people who came to attend the rally were almost all men, and across the country the following of the so-called “alt-right” is overwhelmingly male.
The Republican party’s coded racist rhetoric opened the door to Trump getting elected. Trump does not even bother to code and thus we see the full flowering of the Southern Strategy unleashed by Richard Nixon.