US President Donald Trump blamed both neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups and leftist demonstrators who confronted them for the weekend violence in Charlottesville in the state of Virginia.
“You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. No one wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now: You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent,” Trump said at a Trump Tower press conference in New York.
Trump said that the violence that erupted — leaving one woman dead and about 20 people injured — in Charlottesville was “horrible”, but he insisted that not all of those who attended the protest were neo-Nazis or white supremacists, Efe news reported.
He said that many people attending the rally were there to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
“You had people in that group who were protesting the taking down of what to them is a very, very important statue,” the President said, going on to suggest that if historical revisionism could deligitimize Lee’s role and lead to the removal of his statue, then it could also be used to remove statues and monuments to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who were both slave-owners.
The “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville led to clashes between rallygoers and their opponents.
Trump said that the decision to remove such statues should be left to local authorities and be handled on a case by case basis, but he also vehemently defended his earlier response to what happened in Charlottesville after the criticism he received for waiting two days to explicitly condemn the Ku Klux Klan, the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who had gathered there.
He told reporters that the statement he had made on Saturday had been vague in assigning blame for the violence because, “Unlike … the media, before I make a statement, I like to know the facts.”
Originally, Trump on Saturday had said that “hatred, bigotry and violence” had been evidenced “on many sides” and failed to single out the white supremacists who had called the march in Charlottesville.