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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Monday, September 25, 2017

POTUS Blames “Both Sides” for Violence – Praises “Fine People on Both Sides”

President Trump on Tuesday defended his reaction to White supremacist protestors and counter protestors at the Charlottesville demonstration by saying, "I think there's blame on both sides" and there were "very fine people on both sides".

"What about the alt-left that came charging at, as you say, the alt-right, do they have any semblance of guilt?" Trump asked journalists at Trump Tower in New York City.

"You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent," he said.

The president also declared that the protest, which was against the removal of a statue of a Civil War Confederate general, included peaceful protesters who were unaffiliated with the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who were filmed clashing violently with counter-protesters.

"I looked the night before, if you look, there were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee," Trump said, prompting shouted questions from reporters.

He also appeared to question the appropriateness of removing statues lionizing Confederate figures, noting that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves and asking whether statues of Washington would also be removed.

President Trump’s first visit to his opulent triplex penthouse on Monday night at his eponymously named luxury skyscraper in Manhattan was replete with the kind of controversy that has marked his young presidency. This was the first time since January that Trump had set foot in his long time digs as he utilized the opportunity to schedule meetings in New York while the White house is being renovated.

Trump arrived home to the sight of thousands of rancorous demonstrators who were stridently protesting against him for what they perceive as his reluctance to condemn the racist messages of the alt-right and other White supremacist groups. These groups which include the Neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan were in the maelstrom of the violent riots that have captured the attention of the nation and the world. The rueful aftermath of the hate filled riots left one woman dead and dozens wounded in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday. A contingent of Trump supporters also gathered in front of his home with their own distinct messages of support.

More than 1,000 demonstrators were in pens police erected across the street from Trump Tower by early Monday evening, hours before his expected arrival. An inflatable caricature of Trump rose above pedestrians on a nearby block. On Twitter, a photo surfaced of protesters who made it past security pressing signs against a window in the skyscraper, according to a USA Today report.

Police stationed sand-filled sanitation trucks as barriers around the tower and layers of metal police barricades around the main entrance.

According to a report posted on the Gothamist website, Eric Wilson, 30, was carrying a sign that said "Resist Whiteness," which he explained was a challenge for white people like himself to "confront that as white people, how has this identity been used to…make money at the expense of other people, even when we don’t mean to."

"There’s a kind of everyday violence in whiteness that goes beyond white supremacy," he added.

Wilson's friend, Zach Pace, said he was at the protest to "show solidarity with all our citizens. I'm here to tell President Trump right outside his property that we don’t respect him, we don’t respect his values, and that we don’t want him representing us.

Also reported by the Gothamist web site, Heshy Friedman, a 57-year-old Orthodox Jew from Flatbush, was part of the counter protest, holding a sign that said "Google Orthodox Jews Voted For Trump / We Will Again In 2020."

Friedman, a consultant, said he was unperturbed by the sight of neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. "The college campuses are being infiltrated by Muslim radicals, which is due to Obama bringing in hundreds of thousands of them," Friedman said. "If there's anyone whose bringing protection, it's Trump. It's one of the main reasons the Orthodox Jewish community voted for Trump."

USA Today also reported that in Washington, Metro D.C. Police said demonstrators were marching from Lafayette Park across from the White House up Pennsylvania Avenue toward Trump International Hotel and the Capitol building. In Durham, N.C., protesters met near a Confederate monument downtown, then toppled the statue, according to WNCN-TV.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper called the deadly violence in Charlottesville "unacceptable" via Twitter Monday night and said "there is a better way to remove these monuments,” according to a report in USA Today.

For nearly two hours earlier Monday, protesters in Nashville urged Tennessee's leaders to finally take action and remove a bust of Confederate soldier and early leader of the Ku Klux Klan Nathan Bedford Forrest from the state Capitol in Nashville.

They sang songs such as This Little Light of Mine and voiced their frustrations in chants¬ — “White silence is violence,” “Which side are you on?” and “Tear it down.”

Ultimately, they made their way from the Forrest bust between the House and Senate chambers to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam's office, demanding an answer from him on the issue.

In Minneapolis, hundreds marched the streets in Minneapolis' Cedar-Riverside neighborhood and a Nazi was burned in effigy. The march started at 5 p.m. outside the Minnesota GOP headquarters and protesters eventually headed downtown, blocking some roads and light rail tracks as they went, police said.

In Naples, Fla., more than 150 people attended an anti-hate vigil Monday night at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Greater Naples in response to the violence over the weekend in Virginia.

"We are appalled by the display of hate and bigotry in Charlottesville," said Jeffrey Feld, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Collier County. "We are horrified and sickened by the messages that were spewed. But we must stand together as people who believe in the good of mankind."

The Los Angeles Times reported that on Sunday hundreds of protesters marched peacefully through downtown Los Angeles to denounce the white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Va., and to excoriate President Trump.

The demonstrators rallied on the steps of City Hall with speeches condemning racism and xenophobia, then marched through the streets of downtown, chanting: “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA,” “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here,” “Black lives matter,” and other slogans.

The far-right groups held the rally to protest plans by Charlottesville to tear down a statue of General Robert E. Lee. Lee was the leader of the Confederate forces that fought against federal forces in the Civil War from 1861 until 1865. The war was essentially about slavery in the South. Statues of Lee and other Confederate generals have become the center of demonstrations in several cities across the nation.

Bowing to overwhelming pressure, Trump’s comments in Washington on Monday afternoon followed intense criticism from across the political spectrum for failing for two days to explicitly use the words white supremacists and neo-Nazis in condemning the violence.

After remarking about the upsurge in the economy and the optimistic job growth figures, Trump declared that “racism is evil” and swiftly denounced the White supremacist movement and their historic credo of vociferous hatred towards minorities, gays and Jews.

For the first time since the violence, Trump mentioned by name neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and white supremacists as “criminals and thugs ... that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.” He vowed that anyone who committed “racist violence” in Charlottesville would be held accountable, and said what happened in the city was an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence.”

“It should not take two days and a national tragedy for the president to take action and disavow white supremacists,” said Kristen Clarke with the non-profit Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “When it comes to the safety and the security of our communities, too many of which now feel targeted by hate-fueled protestors, two days is too late.”

Late Monday, Trump lashed out at the media for its coverage of the last two days.

“Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realize once again that the Fake News Media will never be satisfied ... truly bad people!” the president wrote on Twitter.

Jewish Leaders Respond

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder on Saturday harshly condemned the violent Neo-Nazi demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“The World Jewish Congress unequivocally condemns the inconceivable violence exhibited at the neo-Nazi demonstration today in Charlottesville. Our prayers are with the victims of this violence and their families.

“It is utterly distressing and repugnant that such hatred and bigotry still run rampant in parts of this country. There is no place in our democratic society for such violence and intolerance. We must be vigilant and united in our opposition to such abhorrence.

“We commend the Charlottesville authorities and local government for their quick action in quelling these protests and restoring calm, and sincerely hope that this will serve as a deterrent for future demonstrations of violence."

"We are appalled by wanton displays of violence and hatred that erupted in Charlottesville on Saturday," said Rabbi Elazar Muskin, president of the Rabbinical Council of America. "We pray for the injured and express our condolences to the families of those who were killed. We join our voices with all those who embrace the best of our country's values of respect, tolerance and decency."

In a statement released to the media, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) said they condemn the violent, racist, anti-Semitic, and hate filled “Unite the Right” rally by white nationalist groups in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday.

“In moments like these, it’s critical that our political leaders speak in a clear voice opposing hatred." stated JCPA Board Chair Cheryl Fishbein. “What our leaders do and say sets the parameters for the rest of the society."

“There is no comparison between the protestors, who brought hate and violence to the streets of one of the symbolic birth places of American democracy, and the counter protestors” said David Bernstein, JCPA’s President and CEO. "The Rally was one of the largest showings from a hate group in decades. We stand with people of good will from all walks of life who are speaking out against hate. We must drive it back into the underground and to the margins of society.”

“This murderous attack, resembles car ramming in Israel and Europe perpetrated by terrorists associated with ISIS and Hamas. It should be treated as a deliberate act of domestic terrorism", Said Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, Dean and Founder and Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish Human Rights organization.

“ The death and violence that followed Friday night’s torchlight march at University of Virginia, reminiscent of KKK rallies where chants of the slogan ‘Blood and Soil’ used by marchers at mass Nazi rallies in Nuremberg and elsewhere in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s, were spouted by extremists”, Center officials added.

"Americans have the right to debate civilly the removal of a statue, the status of a flag or renaming of a park, without turning to violence and worse. We call upon all American leaders, whatever their political affiliations, led by President Trump, to specifically condemn the extreme alt- right and white nationalists who sow seeds of hate, distrust and violence. They and all other extremists, left or right, have no place in the mainstream of our nation,” Center officials concluded.

In a statement sent to the media, The Rabbinical Alliance of America/IGUD said that its 950 member rabbis condemn and repudiate any and all hate groups. “We strongly believe that there is no place for hatred and violence in our society. The intimidation and negative atmosphere that was created by this demonstration is anathema to the spirit of these blessed Unites States of America,” said RAA Executive Vice President Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik of Staten Island.

He added that, “the RAA extends support and backing to President Donald Trump and to the administration for their remarks repudiating the hate and violence both on Saturday and Monday in condemnation of these hate groups. We believe that all Americans have a great friend and protector of human rights in our President Donald J. Trump. “

Business leaders respond

Also Monday, three members of the American Manufacturing Council, the president’s advisory board of chief executive officers, resigned over the president’s reaction to the violence.

Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of Merck Pharmaceuticals, said the president initially did not “clearly reject expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal.” Trump, in a Twitter response, said that since Frazier had quit the manufacturing council, he would now “have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank tweeted that he is quitting the council because he would rather unite people and promote diversity through the power of sports, not politics.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said he was resigning to highlight the “serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues.”

“I resigned because I want to make progress, while many in Washington seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them,” Krzanich said. “We should honor — not attack — those who have stood up for equality and other cherished American values.”

Trump, however did pay tribute to the three people who died Saturday, including Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal who had gone to the rally to protest against the white nationalists. She was killed when she was hit by a speeding car driven by suspect James Alex Fields, Jr 20, into a group of counter protesters. He has been charged with second degree murder along with other criminal counts.

A Charlottesville judge refused to grant him bond during his first court appearance Monday.

Victim’s mother speaks out

Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, thanked Trump for denouncing “violence and hatred,” and vowed to continue her daughter’s activism against bigotry. “That’s what America is about, that’s what made America great to begin with. We are a melting pot of everybody coming together and working as one,” Bro said.

Two Virginia state police troopers who had been monitoring the protest from the air were also killed when their helicopter crashed.

Trump spoke after two of his top law enforcement officials, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray, briefed him on the federal probe. The Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into Saturday’s violence.

Sessions told ABC News, “You can be sure we will charge and advance the investigation towards the most serious charges that can be brought, because this is an unequivocally unacceptable and evil attack that cannot be accepted in America.”

Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas said the far right groups broke their agreement with police and entered a city park from different directions instead of a single entry point.

By: Fern Sidman