Almost one year after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville devolved into street violence that led to the death of counterprotester Heather Heyer, President Trump marked the anniversary with a tweet that stood in contrast to his infamous reaction in the event’s aftermath.
Condemning racism is the kind of pro forma gesture that would have been unremarkable for every commander in chief in recent decades. For this president, in this context, it unfortunately counts as something of an achievement. But while Trump’s statement may appear uncontroversial on the surface, the “all types of racism” phrasing is likely to please his supporters who believe that anti-white prejudice poses a grave threat to the country.
Trump set off a firestorm when, days after the Unite the Right rally on August 12, 2017, he refused to assign blame to right-wing extremists, instead telling reporters that “many sides” were to blame for the violence. He also said that both the white nationalist demonstrators who had descended on Charlottesville and the counterprotesters who met them included “very fine people.” His comments prompted widespread backlash and inspired business leaders to flee his administration. It was one of the rare low points of his presidency that has stuck in the national consciousness.
Multiple events are planned to commemorate the year anniversary of Charlottesville this weekend, but with the alt-right in shambles — in large part because of the fallout from year’s events — it is expected to leave a much lighter footprint this time around. Jason Kessler, the white nationalist who co-organized Unite the Right, is expected to draw a small crowd to Washington, D.C., for a sequel rally that will also draw plenty of counterprotesters. In Charlottesville itself, multiple anti-racism gatherings are planned, though some right-wing extremists are also expected to show up. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency before the weekend.