Deadly terror at far-right march in Virginia

Chaos: White nationalists waved Nazi flags as they descended on Charlottesville. © Getty

Three people were killed in Charlottesville, Virginia at the weekend as a white nationalist rally descended on the town. How can America best overcome the dark forces of racism?

“You’ll be on the first boat home!” yelled a young white man to a black woman. Then he turned to a white woman: “And as for you, you’re going straight to hell.”

On Saturday, for the third time in three months, the small city of Charlottesville, Virginia encountered a white nationalist rally. The marchers were protesting at the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Many in the crowd gave Nazi salutes as they marched to Emancipation Park.

David Duke, the former grand wizard of the KKK, was waving at the crowds.

This controversy has been played out across the USA in recent years, but Saturday’s rally saw violence hit new heights. Fights broke out between the marchers, some of whom had come in full combat gear, and left-wing counter-protesters, as well as with the police.

At one point, a car ploughed into the counter-protesters. One person was killed. A young man from Ohio has been arrested for murder.

Later in the day, a police helicopter crashed and burst into flames. The pilot and another officer died.

The march, called “Unite the Right”, came under the banner of the alt-right, a disparate group that has come to prominence since the rise of Donald Trump.

The alt-right focuses much of its attention on what it terms “White Genocide” — the idea that a combination of mass immigration and low birth-rates is leading to white people becoming a smaller and smaller percentage of the American population. The crowd chanted: “You will not replace us!”

The movement is also virulently anti-Semitic.

It is a twisted form of identity politics — the idea that your race, gender or sexuality should be key to your political beliefs. While mainstream conservatives oppose identity politics in favour of individualism, the alt-right believes it is inevitable and says: “If blacks and Hispanics can have identity politics, then why not white people?”

Donald Trump has been slammed for criticising “both sides”, as opposed to explicitly calling out the far-right marchers. But is righteous condemnation the way to counter them?

An old evil

“You cannot reason with neo-Nazis,” say some. The best way to stop this ideology spreading is to make it as socially unacceptable as possible. There can be no accommodations made with those who want mass deportations of minorities. Society should come down as hard as possible on these people.

But Derek Black, who was born into a white nationalist family and has since left the movement, credits his time at university for changing his views, as “people chose to invite me into their dorms and conversations rather than ostracise me.” If you do not attempt to understand and discuss someone’s view, how can you hope to change it?

You Decide

  1. What is the best way to deal with these protesters: conversation or condemnation?
  2. Is America heading for a future of widespread political violence?

Activities

  1. Define the terms “white nationalist”, “white supremacist” and “alt-right” as concisely as you can.
  2. Write a speech persuading white nationalists to change their views.

Some People Say...

“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.”

Nelson Mandela

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
That on Saturday, a crowd of nearly a thousand white nationalists descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest against the planned removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The march descended into violence, with a car ramming into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one person and injuring at least 19 others. James Alex Fields, the driver of the car, has been charged with second-degree murder. We know that the march was organised by the alt-right, a group of radical right-wingers that has risen to prominence along with Donald Trump.
What do we not know?
We are still unsure why the Virginia State Police helicopter crashed, killing two people. And as always, both sides tell radically different stories of how the events in Charlottesville unfolded.

Word Watch

Emancipation Park
Formerly called Lee Park.
David Duke
Duke rose to prominence when he ran for political office in the late 1980s. He is an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist and a Holocaust denier. He also supports racial segregation.
Counter-protesters
Some of those who came out to protest against the demonstration were from a radical left-wing group called Antifa (short for “anti-fascist”), which has been involved in violent confrontations in the past, notably at the recent G20 summit in Hamburg.
Smaller percentage of the American population
In 1950, white people formed 89.5% of the population of the United States. In 2010 it was 72.4%. They are projected to be a minority by 2065 according to Pew Research.
Donald Trump
The president tweeted: “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!”
Derek Black
Black is the godson of David Duke and his father started Stormfront, the first major white nationalist website.

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