World leaders condemn ‘racism’ and ‘hatred’ after Charlottesville protests

Trump blames "many sides", but the international response is focused on white supremacy.

Kayla Smith, front, of Birmingham, Ala., chants during a solidarity rally Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017, in Birmingham for the victims of a white supremacist rally that turned violent in Charlottesville, Va. CREDIT: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
Kayla Smith, front, of Birmingham, Ala., chants during a solidarity rally Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017, in Birmingham for the victims of a white supremacist rally that turned violent in Charlottesville, Va. CREDIT: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

Leaders around the world reacted with horror to a white supremacist rally in Virginia on Saturday where three people died.

White nationalists marched in the college town of Charlottesville on Friday evening and throughout Saturday in an effort to “Unite the Right” and protest the removal of a Confederate monument. Demonstrators made racially charged comments and chanted things like “Jews will not replace us!” On the second day, one white nationalist—identified as 20-year-old James Fields—allegedly drove a car into a group of counter-protesters, injuring 19 people and killing 32-year-old paralegal Heather Heyer. Two Virginia state police officers were also killed when their helicopter crashed while monitoring the rally. By the end of the weekend, a total of 34 people had been injured.

U.S. President Donald Trump has since been criticized for his response to the tragedy. The president initially condemned “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides”—appearing to equate counter-protesters with white nationalists. Although the White House on Sunday clarified that the president was “of course” referring to “white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups”, the damage had already been done.

But where Trump failed to call out white nationalists—at least in a timely manner—other world leaders have stepped in.

British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the “racism” and “hatred” demonstrated in Charlottesville in a statement through her spokesperson on Monday. When asked if Trump had gone far enough in his condemnations, the prime minister’s office made her stance clear.

“What the President says is a matter for him. We are very clear … We condemn racism, hatred and violence,” a spokesperson for May said. “We condemn the far right.”

Jeremy Corbyn, head of the opposition Labour party, expressed his condolences one day prior, underscoring the racial nature of the violence.

“My thoughts are with those killed and injured in #Charlottesville standing up to racism and hatred,” he wrote in a tweet.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also weighed in on the events, in addition to retweeting comments from several leaders, including U.S. President Bill Clinton and former Democratic presidential candidate and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“There is no equivalence between Nazis who peddle hate and those who protest against them to defend tolerance of diversity,” Sturgeon wrote.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also spoke out against the violence in a tweet on Sunday. The prime minister nodded to the universal nature of bigotry while extending thoughts to those affected in the United States.

“We know Canada isn’t immune to racist violence & hate,” Trudeau wrote. “We condemn it in all its forms & send support to the victims in Charlottesville.”

Some went a step further. German Chancellor Angela Merkel slammed the tragedy in Charlottesville in comments released Monday.

“The scenes at the right-wing extremist march were absolutely repulsive – naked racism, anti-Semitism and hate in their most evil form were on display,” a spokesperson for Merkel told reporters. “Such images and chants are disgusting wherever they may be and they are diametrically opposed to the political goals of the chancellor and the entire German government.”

Merkel also stood with “those who peacefully oppose such aggressive, far-right views,” her spokesperson added, and felt that Heyer’s murder was “an evil attack.”

Foreign leaders weren’t the only ones offering an international perspective on the situation. One dual U.S.-U.K. national at the University of Virginia told journalist Luke O’Neil on Saturday that the weekend’s events in Charlottesville were uniquely American in more way than one.

“The difference in America is you’ve got people walking around with guns in army gear,” the student said. “The other major difference is unfortunately you have a president today who says we have to “cherish our history” when the point of the march was the Robert E. Lee statue! He was dog whistling to them.”

Coverage of Charlottesville also featured heavily in international news. U.K. outlets, including the Guardian and the Daily Mail, covered the events extensively. German newspaper Die Tageszeitung, meanwhile, honed in on the death of Heyer, writing that she had been killed by a “U.S. neo-Nazi” while protesting white supremacy. The Globe and Mail, often cited as Canada’s “paper of record,” also closely followed the “anger” and “violence” plaguing its southern neighbor. Left-leaning French publication Libération went so far as to run a headline crying “La Maison Blanche”—literally, the White House.

Israel’s Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, also expressed concern over the events. “The anti-Jewish ideology of the Nazis was a precursor to the eventual murderous policy and extermination of six million Jews,” the memorial said in a statement.

Yad Vashem’s comments have drawn attention to one leader who has yet to weigh in on the violence. Despite the nature of Israel’s relationship with Nazi ideology and white supremacy. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a steadfast Trump ally, has remained silent on the events in Charlottesville.