Image Credits: Thomson Reuters, Jonathan Ernst
Article by Justin Shin
Last week, three were killed and dozens were injured when thousands of white nationalists and right wing dissenters clashed in a brutal melee with counter protesters during a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The violence reached its climax when a car plowed through a crowd of peace-advocating, anti-rally protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring many others.
Many people reasoned that the uprising was closely tied to outrage towards the planned removal of General Robert E. Lee’s statue in the city’s downtown area– a component of the nationwide machinery geared towards erasing Confederate monuments and symbols in hopes of eliminating the associated racist ideals. Others, however, argued that the rally was merely “thinly disguised” under this facade of Confederate patriotism as a means for other groups such as Neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan to extend their influence. This suspicion could be somewhat confirmed when the protesters could be seen standing united under flags of both the Confederacy and the Third Reich, along with juxtaposing images of the two political groups within rally-promotion posters. Additionally, the mob of protesters could be heard chanting the phrase “blood and soil” – derived from Nazi propaganda during the early 1930s – whilst diving into the fray.
During times of instability such as this, citizens look up to political leaders for guidance, seeking for reinforcement in their faith in humanity. This archetype was exemplified when Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, in face of this appalling exchange, declared a state of emergency on Saturday afternoon. He openly condemned the violence during a press conference later on in the evening as he said, “Please go home and never come back. Take your hatred, and take your bigotry.”
President Trump, on the other hand, was perhaps less effective as a guiding hand with his indecisive verdict, stating that “both sides” were to blame for the violence. The President was soon brought under heavy criticism when many interpreted this statement as a defense of the rioters, and by extension, the associated violence. This position only became even more untenable when former KKK leader David Duke lauded him for “condemning leftist terrorists.”
The ISM community, both Americans and foreigners alike, have shown a general concurrence in strong disapproval towards the Charlottesville uprising. Sophomore Christian D. expressed pity towards the victims in the rally when he said, “I feel disappointed and sad by the event.” Saipranav M., another sophomore, stated that “The government was irresponsible. They should have stepped their game up. The government should have used their full military potential to intervene and stop this violence.”
Despite this overwhelming international consensus, racial tensions within the United States continue to run high as reactionary minorities such as Neo-Nazis and the KKK continue to spread their dogma and flourish over widespread hatred and insensitivity.