US President Donald Trump has called out the KKK, neo-Nazis and other hate groups in response to the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, after criticism that his initial response to the tragedy was insufficient.
Speaking from the Diplomatic Room at the White House, Trump said that hatred and bigotry “has no place in America” while labeling racism as “evil”.
“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,” Trump said.
“We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal,” he said.
He said the Department of Justice has opened up a civil rights investigation of the tragedy, and said “we will spare no resource fighting so every American child can grow up free from violence and fear”.
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He met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI director Christopher Wray late on Monday morning.
He did not take questions after delivering the brief statement. Reporters asked him why it had taken until Monday to make such a statement.
Trump had been under pressure to call out white supremacist groups after delivering remarks on Saturday in which he condemned the violence and bigotry from “many sides”.
Trump did mention by name Heather Heyer, who was killed after she was struck by a vehicle whose driver crashed into a crowd of counter demonstrators. The driver, James Alex Fields, has been charged with second-degree murder.
He also mentioned the two state troopers who were killed in a helicopter crash near Charlottesville. They had been assisting local law enforcement in trying to control the unrest.
Trump said that the three “fallen Americans” are people who “embody the goodness and decency of our nation”.
“In times such as these, America has always shown its true character,” he said. “Responding to hate with love, division with unity and violence with an unwavering resolve for justice.”
The white supremacist groups staged demonstrations at the University of Virginia on Friday and in downtown Charlottesville on Saturday.
They were holding a “Unite the Right” rally, to protest the Charlottesville City Council’s decision to remove a statute of Robert E. Lee, the Civil War general.
Some of the demonstrators wore Make America Great Again hats, and those participating included David Duke, who told reporters that they were would to “fulfil the promises” of Trump.