The horrifying mass killings of last weekend in El Paso and Dayton and the repulsively repetitive words but no action from the President and Republicans could not have illustrated better what former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe describes in his new book, “Beyond Charlottesville, Taking a Stand Against White Nationalism,” that came out last week.
McAuliffe has launched a speaking tour to underscore the grim story told in the book, about the white nationalist riot that took place in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017 resulting in one murder. It’s also as much about President Trump’s abject failure to take a stand on that occasion even as McAuliffe pleaded with him to do so.
The parallels between that seminal event, which it could be argued, under the auspices of a Trump White House, kicked off a new escalated phase in the rise of white nationalist violence, and last weekend are stunning. The only difference is that last weekend took over 40 innocent lives, and the Charlottesville “inaugural” three, which includes two state troopers who died in a helicopter accident.
McAuliffe spelled out the ugly parameters of Charlottesville before a standing room only audience at the Poetry and Prose bookstore in D.C. last week. I was there when his presentation was interrupted by another angry and chanting group, not of white nationalists in this case but of opponents of police violence, who shut down discourse themselves, with chants of “cops and Klan go hand in hand.”
They claimed to be protesting McAuliffe’s vow to dedicate profits from his book to state police benevolence efforts, arguing that the police at the scene of the August 12 riots were sympathetic with the white nationalists and harrassing counter- protesters.
Still, drowned out in the process was the ability of the large audience to better understand what McAuliffe was describing about the descent of over 1,000 white nationalists from 35 states into Charlottesville on the ostensible occasion of the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. He described how these white nationalists were advised via the Internet to come armed and “ready to hurt people.”
On the Friday night before the rally, he described how the 1,000 protesters entered the city in a march carrying torches and chanting horrible anti-semitic and racist epithets. Although the rally had been scheduled for noon Saturday, the white supremacist “militias” began organizing at 8 a.m. and 979 state police had to be called to the scene.
After one protester, recently found guilty of murder for his action, plowed his vehicle into a crowd assembled to oppose the white nationalists, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer, McAuliffe declared a state of emergency at 11:21 a.m. and the protesters were given 11 minutes to vacate the site of what had become a riot.
McAuliffe actually opens the narrative of the book with the exchange that subsequently occurred between he and President Trump by phone. As McAuliffe made his way to the scene from his home in McLean, Trump was on a golf course in New Jersey.
“When I hung up with President Trump that day, there was no question in my mind that he was going to do the right thing,” McAuliffe opens the book. “Foolish me, I was convinced that he was going to clearly condemn the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who had come out of the shadows to march through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, in broad daylight, armed and dangerous, screaming some of the most obscene, sickening language I’ve ever heard in my life.”
McAuliffe went from there to describe his disbelief when the President, after the urgent phone call, did absolutely nothing for hours. When Trump finally did speak, he said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence,” but then added, “On many sides, on many sides.”
McAuliffe reacted, “What was he talking about? On many sides? The president and I had only talked about one side, the side with the heavily armed white supremacists and neo-Nazis on a mission of hate and violence, not on the other side with peaceful protesters taking a stand against hate and division.”