US President Donald Trump has finally condemned “evil” racism in response to the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, after criticism that his initial response to the tragedy was insufficient.
Speaking from the Diplomatic Room at the White House on Tuesday morning (AEST), President Trump said that hatred and bigotry “has no place in America” while labelling racism as “evil” and specifically naming the Klu Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other hate groups
“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,” he said.
“We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal,” he said.
His address at a hastily scheduled White House event came after meeting with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to discuss the Department of Justice’s civil rights investigation into the attack.
President Trump said the Department of Justice investigation “will spare no resource fighting so every American child can grow up free from violence and fear”.
The President did not take questions after delivering the brief statement. Reporters asked him why it had taken until Monday to make such a statement.
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) August 14, 2017
President Trump had been under pressure to call out white supremacist groups after delivering remarks on Saturday in which he condemned the violence and bigotry from “many sides”.
He did mention by name Heather Heyer, who was killed after she was struck by a vehicle whose driver crashed into a crowd of counter demonstrators.
The driver, James Alex Fields, has been charged with second-degree murder. He was denied bail in a brief court hearing Tuesday morning.
Susan Bro, mother of Charlottesville attack victim Heather Heyer, thanks Pres. Trump for "denouncing those who promote violence and hatred" pic.twitter.com/E46OnwE5fW
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 14, 2017
The President also mentioned the two state troopers who were killed in a helicopter crash near Charlottesville.
They had been assisting local law enforcement in trying to control the unrest.
President Trump said that the three “fallen Americans” are people who “embody the goodness and decency of our nation”.
“In times such as these, America has always shown its true character,” he said. “Responding to hate with love, division with unity and violence with an unwavering resolve for justice.”
The white supremacist groups staged demonstrations at the University of Virginia on Friday and in downtown Charlottesville on Saturday.
They were holding a “Unite the Right” rally, to protest the Charlottesville City Council’s decision to remove a statute of Robert E. Lee, the Civil War general.
Some of the demonstrators wore Make America Great Again hats, and those participating included David Duke, who told reporters that they were would to “fulfil the promises” of President Trump.