US President Donald Trump, under pressure to explicitly condemn a weekend Virginia rally by white supremacists that ended in bloodshed, on Monday denounced neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan as criminals and thugs.
“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,” the president said in a statement to reporters at the White House.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence,” he said.
A 20-year-old man said to have harbored Nazi sympathies was arrested on charges of plowing his car into protesters opposing the white nationalists, killing 32-year-old paralegal Heather Heyer and injuring 19 people. The accused, James Fields, was denied bail at a court hearing on Monday.
Several others were arrested in connection with street brawls during the day that left another 15 people injured. And two airborne state troopers involved in crowd control were killed when their helicopter crashed.
Saturday’s disturbances erupted after white nationalists converged in Charlottesville, home of the University of
Virginia’s flagship campus, to protest plans for removing a statue of General Robert E. Lee, commander of the pro-slavery Confederate army of the US Civil War.
Trump had taken heat from Democrats and Republicans alike for his initial response to the violence.