Experts are warning that our culture was ripe for a violent protest like Charlottesville, and that another, even worse protest may be on the horizon. Protestors and counter-protestors were engaged in open combat for hours this past weekend, as police tried to quell the violence and break up the crowds. Tear gas and mace were both brought out, but ultimately were unable to stop the situation from escalating. Three people lost their lives, including one woman who was driven down by a white supremacist who intentionally crashed his car into a group of counter-protestors.
Heather Heyer was tragically killed in service of the idea that our diversity is our power. It’s on us to honor her memory with action.— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 14, 2017
Our people are feeling real good right now. We view this is as a civil rights movement at this point. We’re advocating for white rights and white people, who will soon be a minority in this country. This day was a milestone pushing us into our next stage. We had a large turnout. We’re coming back to Charlottesville.
The alt-right movement has grown exponentially larger since Donald Trump began running for President. Many who previously believed their nationalistic views were a fringe, unwelcome perspective in civilized society, now feel that their cause is gaining momentum, even becoming mainstream. In the past year, White supremacists have held rallies in Berkeley, Portland, New Orleans, and Gettysburg in addition to other rallies held in Charlottesville. And now, with the President of the United States refusing to condemn Nazism, and after over a year of signaling his support for white nationalism, experts are deeply concerned that conflicts between white supremacists and counter-protestors are only going to increase.
Experts explain that an emboldened far-right has, in turn, emboldened the far left, which includes the Antifa (or anti-fascist) movement. The groups will continue feeding off each other, issuing punishment for every slight, as the situation continues to escalate. Brian Levin, head of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, called it:
...a reciprocal dance of extremism.
Heidi Beirich, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, agreed that when Anti-fascist protestors arrived to fight White nationalist protestors, it "gives 'oxygen' to the white supremacist cause. Both experts agreed, however, that decisive action from the White House often plays a strong role in ending this violent back-and-forth.
This is a moment that demands moral leadership. President Trump should acknowledge that this is not a matter of equivalence between two sides with similar gripes. There is no rationalizing white supremacy and no room for this vile bigotry. It is un-American and it needs to be condemned without hesitation.
Eli Mosley lost his day job three months ago after being revealed as a white supremacist online, and now works full-time as an alt-right organizer. He was pleased with Trump's initial response to the Charlottesville protests, saying they were "neutral in a way" that he liked. In the next few months, he'll be moving to Virginia, where it will be easier to prepare for the next big protest event.