A rally that started Friday evening in Charlottesville, Virginia was allegedly assembled to "unite the right." But a more accurate version of what has transpired since is a shocking display of Nazism, white supremacy, and a reflection of deeply-held values that have wreaked havoc on America for its entire history.
Members of the broader "alt-right" poured into the Virginia town over the weekend, with sects within that group including Neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members, and white nationalists. In clashes with counter-protesters, these groups wreaked havoc, with one horrifying bit of video footage showing a car careening into a crowd of protesters, peeling away from the scene by throwing their car into reverse.
Given the violence on display in Charlottesville, forceful language from the country's leaders was the bare minimum to be expected. But when Donald Trump finally addressed the powder keg in Virginia early Saturday afternoon, he offered a mild statement, not condemning any one group and instead calling for all to unite.
In a statement given during a later press conference, Trump once again refused to hone in on any one group. "We condemn in the strongest possible terms," said Trump, "this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides. On many sides."
As many were quick to point out on Twitter, Trump has been more than happy to launch extended, targeted tirades about similar acts of violence abroad, or even to condemn news outlets like CNN.
But this is not a Trump-only problem, and the symbols on display all throughout Charlottesville highlight issues that marginalized groups have tried to point out repeatedly over time.
In recent years, the fight to remove Confederate monuments has overtaken Southern states, sparking prolonged battles about their place in history vs. the hateful regime they represent. Critics have argued the fight to keep the "stars and bars" flying over the south represents a last grasp of white supremacy and entrenched bigotry. Looking at the company the flag kept in Charlottesville this weekend, it's hard to argue against that, with the so-called symbol of "Southern values" proudly on display next to Nazi flags.
Confederacy advocates standing in line with Nazis is bad enough. It gets even worse, however, when you see Nazis feeling comfortable alongside American institutions that are supposed to stand for justice. This photo, shared by Katie Couric, shows a man wearing a hat signifying service in the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army, using the salute of an evil group the U.S. military once sought to defeat.
The public's ire also turned toward police, and they contrasted their actions against previous cases involving protesters of a different nature. As we saw in Ferguson—and various other events involving Black Lives Matter in the years since Michael Brown's death—protestors have often been attacked with excessive force by officers of the law. Demonstrators in the Missouri town were even reportedly referred to as "enemy forces" by the National Guard that swarmed the state during the protest.
But the impression given off by Charlottesville police this weekend is at best indifference, and at worse complicit in the actions of the hateful groups rampaging through their city.
Reporters on the ground took the accusations to another level, noting a "sparse police presence" within the town, even citing police officers on the scene making excuses for the driver who was filmed striking innocent people.
Perhaps the strongest indication of the problem at hand came from David Duke, former grand wizard of the KKK, who infamously endorsed Trump's run for the presidency. After Trump's initial statement on the matter, Duke took to his personal Twitter to seemingly condemn Trump for not protecting white supremacists enough.
People like Duke flooded the streets of Charlottesville, feeling emboldened enough to put their white supremacy on display for a nation. These people and their beliefs did not just sprout up overnight. Shocking though some of the footage may be, this is not a new problem, and can only be stopped by addressing how pervasive these issues can be, whether in radical groups of bigots or in apathy from the highest office in the U.S. government.