TRUMPadelphia: Charlottesville and beyond

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Multiple white nationalist groups march with torches through the UVA campus in Charlottesville on Friday.

Hi, friends. Let’s be good to one another this week, okay?

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-Aubrey Whelan


Today, let’s talk about Charlottesville.

What’s at stake

Neo-Nazis and assorted white supremacist groups rallied in Charlottesville, Va. this weekend to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.  On Friday night, they carried torches through campus and chanted “Jews will not replace us.” On Saturday, they fought counterprotesters in a city park until local officials declared a state of emergency. And that afternoon, a white supremacist from Ohio was charged with driving a car into a group of counterprotesters, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring more than a dozen. Hours later, President Trump decried bigotry “on many sides”; it would take him until Monday to explicitly condemn racism and the Nazi groups who rallied in Virginia. What isn’t at stake, really?

The local angle 

Daryle Lamont Jenkins, a Philly anti-fascist activist who’s run a website tracking neo-Nazis and white supremacists for nearly two decades, was in Charlottesville over the weekend. “Almost everyone I’ve been dealing with for 17 years was in Charlottesville,” he told me. “Folks I thought were long since out of the game. In their mind, it was either their last round or the beginning of something glorious.

“I thought we had a handle on it — but we got too comfortable,” he said. “Ignoring them was what made them stronger.”

Jenkins has been covering these kinds of events for years, and he senses something different afoot: hate is getting bolder, he said, and white supremacists themselves are saying the president is inspiring them.  (NPR has a good breakdown of how these events played out for some of the president’s more mainstream supporters — Trump’s “many sides” statement was received pretty well.)

What’s ahead

The Philly-raised CEO of Merck pulled out of a presidential commission over Trump’s handling of the situation (and earned an immediate and scathing tweet from the president). Tech companies are kicking neo-Nazis off their platforms. On the far right, some white supremacists rankled at Trump’s second, more forceful statement on the rally; some still saw wiggle room. There’s a Twitter account identifying people who attended the rally (some lost jobs; one was disowned by his family). The Charlottesville police are being criticized for not stepping in sooner; so is the ACLU, for suing to keep the rally in downtown Charlottesville after authorities tried to move it. Other cities are moving to take down Confederate monuments; protesters in Durham, N.C. just did it themselves.

Here’s a profile of the Virginia state police troopers killed in a helicopter crash while monitoring the protests. And here’s a profile of Heather Heyer, the woman killed in the car attack, who died, as the New York Times wrote, “standing up for what she believed in.”


What they’re saying

“Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.” — President Trump on Monday, condemning the Charlottesville attack.

 

“Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realize once again that the #Fake News Media will never be satisfied…truly bad people!” — President Trump on Twitter a few hours later, after continued criticism of his handling of the situation.

 

“It does meet the definition of domestic terrorism.” — Attorney General Jeff Sessions, on the killing of Heather Heyer, saying he’d press the most serious charges possible.


In other news…

  • One of President Trump’s biggest boosters, PA Rep. Lou Barletta, is eyeing a Senate run against Sen. Bob Casey. My colleague Jonathan Tamari looks at what’s at stake in the race — and whether Barletta can raise enough money.
  • Trump is in New York City this week, his first time back since taking the oath, and protesters gave him a real hometown welcome last night.
  • The Trump administration is giving health insurers another three weeks to decide whether they’re going to offer plans under the Affordable Care Act, as Trump himself decides whether to keep paying them.

What I’m reading

  • My colleague Jon Lai takes a thorough, fascinating look at why Pennsylvania sends too many Republicans to Congress — “That’s not a partisan attack,” he writes. “It’s just simple math.” (The answer, by the way, is gerrymandering, and our fair state is one its most prominent practitioners.)
  • The New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino, a University of Virginia alumna, writes about Charlottesville and the storied tradition of ignoring racism in America.
  • New York Magazine’s Brian Feldman looks at the “ironic Nazis” of 4chan and Reddit, the role Internet culture played in the creation of the alt-right, and how the line between the real world and the online one is blurring.

A non-political palate cleanser

My colleague Sofiya Ballin won a national award from the National Association of Black Journalists this weekend for her Black History Untold series, begun last year; it is a powerful, joyful, important read and you should take a look at it.