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Neo-Nazis and assorted white supremacist groups rallied in Charlottesville, Va. this weekend to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. On Friday night, they carried torches through campus and chanted "Jews will not replace us." On Saturday, they fought counterprotesters in a city park until local officials declared a state of emergency. And that afternoon, a white supremacist from Ohio was charged with driving a car into a group of counterprotesters, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring more than a dozen. Hours later, President Trump decried bigotry "on many sides"; it would take him until Monday to explicitly condemn racism and the Nazi groups who rallied in Virginia. What isn't at stake, really?
Daryle Lamont Jenkins, a Philly anti-fascist activist who's run a website tracking neo-Nazis and white supremacists for nearly two decades, was in Charlottesville over the weekend. "Almost everyone I've been dealing with for 17 years was in Charlottesville," he told me. "Folks I thought were long since out of the game. In their mind, it was either their last round or the beginning of something glorious.
"I thought we had a handle on it — but we got too comfortable," he said. "Ignoring them was what made them stronger."
Jenkins has been covering these kinds of events for years, and he senses something different afoot: hate is getting bolder, he said, and white supremacists themselves are saying the president is inspiring them. (NPR has a good breakdown of how these events played out for some of the president's more mainstream supporters — Trump's "many sides" statement was received pretty well.)
The Philly-raised CEO of Merck pulled out of a presidential commission over Trump's handling of the situation (and earned an immediate and scathing tweet from the president). Tech companies are kicking neo-Nazis off their platforms. On the far right, some white supremacists rankled at Trump's second, more forceful statement on the rally; some still saw wiggle room. There's a Twitter account identifying people who attended the rally (some lost jobs; one was disowned by his family). The Charlottesville police are being criticized for not stepping in sooner; so is the ACLU, for suing to keep the rally in downtown Charlottesville after authorities tried to move it. Other cities are moving to take down Confederate monuments; protesters in Durham, N.C. just did it themselves.