Violence in Virginia last weekend fanned running national debates about race and free speech, and could resonate politically and socially for weeks or even years to come.
The country watched in dismay on August 12 as right-wing demonstrators – including white supremacists and neo-Nazis upset in part over the city’s plan to remove a Confederate monument – and counterprotesters clashed in Charlottesville. After a car plowed through a crowd of counterprotesters, killing a 32-year-old named Heather Heyer and injuring several, the nation reeled.
Other monuments were torn down, legally and otherwise. Minority groups expressed fear that hate groups were emboldened. Heyer was mourned. And the President who prides himself as a Washington outsider found himself at odds with some of the few political friends he has there.
Here’s a look back at a historic week in the United States:
Monday: 48 hours after rally, Trump finally condemns supremacists
Trump took heat for a statement he made on the night of the rally. He denounced “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” but in that moment didn’t specifically mention the white supremacists who staged the event.
He shifted gears Monday, condemning white supremacists and neo-Nazis in a brief statement to reporters.
“Racism is evil – and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said.
That was just a taste of what was to come from that council in the coming days.
Other Monday developments:
• James Alex Fields Jr., accused of killing Heyer and injuring 19 others when he drove his car into a crowd and another vehicle in Charlottesville, made a court appearance and was denied bond. He was held on suspicion of second-degree murder, malicious wounding and failure to stop in an accident that resulted in death.
• Both the white supremacists and the counterdemonstrators blamed each other for instigating clashes. Both groups accused Charlottesville police of not doing enough to prevent the violence.
• In a moment shared widely on social media, protesters used rope to pull down part of a Confederate monument in Durham, North Carolina. At least eight would be arrested.
• Anti-Trump and anti-racism rallies were held across the United States, including outside New York’s Trump Tower, where the President was staying that night.
Tuesday: Trump: ‘I think there’s blame on both sides’
Even if President Trump appeased some critics on Monday, he kicked a virtual hornet’s nest a day later.
At Trump Tower, he told reporters that he thinks “there is blame on both sides” for the Charlottesville violence.
That outraged Democrats and Republicans alike, who said Trump was wrongly equating white supremacists with the people demonstrating against them.
“What about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging at, as you say, the ‘alt-right?’ Do they have any semblance of guilt?” Trump asked. “What about the fact they came charging with clubs in hands, swinging clubs, do they have any problem? I think they do.”
“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. “Nobody wants to say it, but I will say it right now.”
Trump said some “very bad people” were on both sides, but that some who came out to protest the removal of Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee statue were “fine people.”
Criticism of the President was swift and broad-based. Some, like House Speaker Paul Ryan, reacted without naming Trump. “We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity,” Ryan tweeted.
Others called him out by title or name. “Mr. President,you can’t allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame. They support idea which cost nation & world so much pain,” US Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida tweeted.
Public figures in Israel, Germany, the United Kingdom and elsewhere also condemned Trump’s remarks.
Other Tuesday developments:
There are also rallies planned in the Bay Area later this month, with a another “free speech rally” scheduled for August 26 in San Francisco and a “No to Marxism” event planned in nearby Berkeley the next day.
• The American Civil Liberties Union took heat for having fought in court for white supremacists’ rights to hold the Charlottesville rally. But the ACLU counters that even hateful, bigoted speech must be aired.
This was a day for Charlottesville to try to heal and mourn, starting with a public memorial for Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal who lived and worked in Charlottesville. Friends have said she joined the counterprotesters to oppose racism and injustice.
“They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what? You just magnified her,” her mother, Susan Bro, said to loud applause at the city’s roughly 1,000-seat Paramount Theater.
Later, University of Virginia students and Charlottesville residents marched peacefully on campus, carrying candles to mourn Heyer and two state troopers who died in a helicopter crash while monitoring the city hours after the violent rally.
They organized without social media, publicizing only by word of mouth and text message to decrease the likelihood of attracting anyone who’d want to disrupt the event.
Meanwhile, backlash to Trump’s comments continued. As even more people pulled out of Trump’s manufacturing council, the President disbanded that panel and a separate business advisory council.
“Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!” he tweeted.
Other Wednesday developments:
• In a rare move, top commanders in the US military – five Joint Chiefs – issued public condemnations of white supremacist groups.
• US Sen. Lindsey Graham got into a tit-for-tat with Trump about the President’s statements.
• Descendants of prominent Confederate figures Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson said they want monuments of the men to be removed.
Thursday: No Mar-a-Lago
Fallout from Trump’s comments appeared to continue. From Thursday to Friday, three organizations announced they were canceling plans to hold events at the President’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
For one of the groups, the Cleveland Clinic, it will be the first time in eight years that it has not held its fundraiser at the resort.
None of the groups specifically cited Trump’s comments. But one, the American Cancer Society, said that “it has become increasingly clear” that hosting its fundraiser on Trump-owned property presents a “challenge” to its values.
And a US senator who’d maintained a collegial relationship with Trump’s administration gave a blistering assessment of the President’s handling of Charlottesville.
“The President has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful,” Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said in a video posted by Chattanooga news website Nooga.com.
Friday: Mayor wants help removing statue
The memorial that ostensibly precipitated last weekend’s rally in Charlottesville – the Lee statue – is now more squarely in the crosshairs of Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer.
The Charlottesville City Council voted in February to remove the Lee statue and sell it. Signer had been against the move, but because of the recent violence, he’s changed his mind.
Signer said Friday that he’s asked Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to call a special session to change the law so local governments can have more authority in deciding what to do with Confederate monuments.
A judge issued a temporary injunction in May stopping Charlottesville from moving the statue for six months. A court hearing in the lawsuit is set for later in August.
McAuliffe’s spokesman, Brian Coy, said Friday the governor probably won’t call a special session because of the lawsuit.
Other Friday developments:
• Fields, the man accused in the car attack, was charged with five additional felony counts.
• Heyer’s mother, who on Monday thanked Trump for “denouncing those who promote violence and hatred,” said Friday she won’t speak to the President, citing his Tuesday news conference.
• By Friday, many public and private monuments and memorials across the country had been vandalized – and not just Confederate ones.
• More rallies coming: A free speech rally is set for Saturday at noon in Boston. A Facebook page purportedly linked to the event has sought to distance itself from last weekend’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Event organizers have invited “libertarians, conservatives, traditionalists, classical liberals, (Donald) Trump supporters or anyone else who enjoys their right to free speech.”
One organizer, John Medlar, a student at Fitchburg State University, told CNN affiliate WCVB that his group is libertarian and opposes bigotry and the Ku Klux Klan.
A counterdemonstration has been organized by a coalition of mostly left-leaning groups and activists such as the Black Lives Matter movement.
Rallies are also planned in the Bay Area later this month, with another “free speech rally” scheduled for August 26 in San Francisco and a “No to Marxism” event planned in nearby Berkeley the next day.
• Debates over Confederate symbols will continue: There are 1,500 public symbols of the Confederacy in the United States, including monuments, schools and holidays. Many local government officials are weighing whether to keep memorials in their cities and towns.
• Tech companies are debating whether and how to confront white supremacists. GoDaddy and Google each stopped hosting the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer after it published a derogatory story about Heyer. Facebook has taken down a number of white supremacist Facebook Groups and pulled the Charlotteville rally’s event page after it became clear it was violent.