UPDATED Aug. 12, 12:45 p.m. PT: Donald Trump said that he condemns “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence, on many sides.”
“It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long, long time,” Trump noted. “We’re going to make America great again, but we’re going to make it great for all of the people of the United States of America,” he concluded before using the platform to sign his Accountability Act for veteran affairs from Bedminster, N.J.
The mayor of Charlottesville said that one person died. A car was driven into a group of counter-demonstrators, apparently by intent, and authorities said that there were also multiple injuries.
His statement can be viewed below.
“There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one,” he wrote.
Trump issued a second tweet calling the situation “sad.”
He was expected to make further remarks in the mid-afternoon from Bedminster, N.J., where he has been on a working vacation.
As the rally broke out into violence, Trump had come under criticism for no releasing a statement earlier in the day, even as supporters said that he was focused on the unfolding situation in North Korea.
Vice President Mike Pence issued a statement soon after, saying that he stands with the president “against hate and violence.”
On Saturday, hundreds of demonstrators, including white nationalists, white supremacists, and the alt-right, clashed with other protesters in Charlottesville, Va. early Saturday as the right wing groups planned to rally to defend a statue of Civil War confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from being removed.
Trump’s reaction still drew some criticism for not specifically calling out the white nationalists and white supremacists. Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, said on CNN that he found Trump’s statement “generic.”
Some of the demonstrators identified themselves as Trump supporters, and among them were white supremacist David Duke, who told reporters that the rally “represents a turning point. We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That is what we believe in and that is why we voted for Donald Trump.”
The Charlottesville demonstration, which was called “Unite the Right,” gained widespread attention on Friday evening, when hundreds of white nationalists, bearing tiki torches, marched on the campus of the University of Virginia and chanted, “You will not replace us.” Some chanted Nazi slogans.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency to assist in the state’s response, as did local officials. Although the rally was supposed to start at noon, police declared it an unlawful assembly and ordered people to disperse. The White House has been in contact with the governor’s office.
As images of the protests dominated social media and cable news, there was an increasing focus on Trump’s response and if/when he would actually make one. First Lady Melania Trump weighed in on the protests about an hour before Trump sent his tweet.
The Charlottesville City Council voted to remove the Lee statue and to rename Lee Park to Emancipation Park. A number of municipalities across the country have also removed emblems from the Confederate era, including the Confederate flag.