Neo-nazis have applauded Donald Trump’s response to the violent clashes between white supremacists and anti-fascists which swept Charlottesville and left three people dead.
The US President has refused to condemn the actions of the neo-Nazis, skinheads, and members of the Ku Klux Klan who descended on the Virginia city on Saturday carrying flaming torches, yelling racial abuse, carrying assault rifles and wearing paramilitary clothing.
Speaking from a stage in a golf clubhouse, President Trump decried “violence on all sides” rather than explicitly taking aim at far-right extremists.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” he said. “On many sides.”
The billionaire property developer then left the conference, turning a deaf ear to reporters’ shouted questions, including whether he wanted the support of white nationalists who have allied themselves with him or whether he deemed the violence to be terrorism.
But while Mr Trump has sparked widespread condemnation from across the political spectrum for failing to denounce the largest gathering of white nationalists in America for decades, his response has been actively celebrated by neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
The founder of Daily Stormer, an American neo-Nazi and white supremacist site which considers itself to be part of the alt-right movement, hailed the fact President Trump “outright refused to disavow” the gathering of white supremacists.
“People saying he cucked are shills and kikes,” said its editor Andrew Anglin. “He did the opposite of cuck. He refused to even mention anything to do with us. When reporters were screaming at him about White Nationalism he just walked out of the room.”
Another Daily Stormer commenter said: ”Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. He said that we need to study why people are so angry, and implied that there was hate… on both sides! So he implied the Antifa are haters.”
Antifa, shorthand for antifascist organisations, refers to a loose coalition of decentralised, grassroots groups opposed to the many guises of fascism which began in Europe in the 1920s.
“There was virtually no counter-signaling of us at all,” the Trump supporter continued. “He said he loves us all. Also refused to answer a question about white nationalists supporting him. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”
Richard Spencer, a leading white supremacist who rose to fame for being punched at an anti-Trump protest, was similarly supportive of President Trump’s response to the violence which erupted between those opposed to the removal of a statue from a local park of Civil War Confederate General Robert E Lee and counter-protesters.
After Mr Trump tweeted earlier on Saturday “We ALL must be united and condemn all that hate stands for,” Spencer, who is credited with coining the term “alt-right”, replied: “Did Trump just denounce Antifa?”
Charlottesville, Virginia Protests
Nevertheless, it would be wrong to assume all white supremacists have celebrated President Trump’s reaction to the violence. David Duke, the former head of the Ku Klux Klan who found himself at the centre of controversy after Mr Trump failed to immediately condemn his endorsement during the 2016 presidential campaign, was less effusive.
Mr Duke, who in Charlottesville, said: “I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror and remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists”.
He had been responding to President Trump saying: “We ALL must be united and condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Let’s come together as one!”
Chaos broke out on the streets of Charlottesville as tensions spilled into street clashes using rocks and pepper spray. A 32-year-old women was killed after a car was driven at speed into a group of anti-fascist protesters and two policemen died in a helicopter crash while taking part in efforts to restore peace to the area.
A state of emergency was announced by the local and state governments with police declaring the “Unite the Right” rally an unlawful assembly and demanding the crowds to disperse.
Fellow Republicans have slammed President Trump, who spent his presidential bid repeatedly attacking Obama and Clinton for failing to label terrorist attacks as such, for his response to the furore.
“Mr President – we must call evil by its name,” said Republican Senator Cory Gardner, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
The alt-right – a political movement which has been accused of racism, antisemitism and misogyny and of sharing an ideology with far-right parties such as the French National Front – gained increasing prominence during Mr Trump’s presidential bid and has continued to do so since his arrival in the White House.
During the campaign, Hillary Clinton accused President Trump of making the alt-right “mainstream“ and attacked the movement as ”racist ideas … anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-women ideas”.
White House Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, is the former executive chair of far-right online publication Breitbart News which he described as “the platform for the alt-right” last year.
While President Trump has attempted to distance himself from the so-called “alt-right” movement, its members have put their weight behind the former reality TV star and heralded him as their leader.
“We are determined to take this country back. We’re gonna fulfil the promises of Donald Trump,” Mr Duke said in an interview with The Indianapolis Star on Saturday in Charlottesville. “That’s why we voted for Donald Trump because he said he’s going to take our country back.”