SEATTLE - Protesters decrying hatred and racism converged around the country on Sunday, saying they felt compelled to counteract the white supremacist rally that spiraled into deadly violence in Virginia.
The gatherings spanned from a planned march to President Donald Trump’s home in New York to a candlelight vigil in Florida. In Seattle, police made arrests and confiscated weapons as Trump supporters and counter-protesters converged downtown.
Some focused on showing support for the people whom white supremacists’ condemn. Other demonstrations were pushing for the removal of Confederate monuments, the issue that initially prompted white nationalists to gather in anger this weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. Still other gatherings aimed to denounce fascism and a presidential administration that organizers feel has let white supremacists feel empowered.
“People need to wake up, recognize that and resist it as fearlessly as it needs to be done,” said Carl Dix, a leader of the Refuse Fascism group organizing demonstrations in New York, San Francisco and other cities. “This can’t be allowed to fester and to grow because we’ve seen what happened in the past when that was allowed.”
“It has to be confronted,” said Dix, a New Yorker who spoke by phone from Charlottesville Sunday afternoon. He’d gone there to witness and deplore the white nationalist rally on a Saturday that spiraled into bloodshed.
In Seattle, hundreds of demonstrators and counter-protesters converged downtown. Police say they have made arrests and confiscated weapons. Police also ordered crowds at one downtown intersection to disperse.
Blocks away, a conservative pro-Trump group was rallying at Westlake Park in downtown. The rally organized by the conservative pro-Trump group known as Patriot Prayer — and a counter protest aimed at standing against hate — were previously planned for Sunday. Patriot Prayer has held similar events throughout the Pacific Northwest and they have been met by counter protests.
A barricade separated the groups of protesters as police officers stood by dressed in black riot gear. At one intersection, police ordered crowds to disperse.
The Seattle Times reported that officers used pepper spray on some marchers. It wasn’t immediately clear how many people had been arrested.
In Denver, several hundred demonstrators gathered beneath a statue of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in City Park and marched about two miles to the state Capitol. In Fort Collins, Colorado, marchers chanted “Everyone is welcome here. No hate, no fear.” One demonstrator’s sign said, “Make racists ashamed again.”
Other protests were planned later in the day in other places, including candlelight vigils in Winter Haven, Florida, and near the New Hampshire Statehouse. Other demonstrations centered on confederate statues on the state Capitol grounds in West Virginia and in Tampa, Florida; officials in Tampa have voted to relocate theirs.
The Florida chapter of the group Save Southern Heritage released a statement Sunday expressing “horror and disbelief” over the deaths in Charlottesville, Virginia, but also blaming news reports for “renewed attacks on Florida’s historical assets,” including the Tampa Confederate war memorial.
Charlottesville descended into violence Saturday after neo-Nazis, skinheads, Ku Klux Klan members and other white nationalists gathered to “take America back” and oppose plans to remove a Confederate statue in the Virginia college town, and hundreds of other people came to protest the rally. The groups clashed in street brawls, with hundreds of people throwing punches, hurling water bottles and beating each other with sticks and shields.
Eventually, a car rammed into a peaceful crowd of anti-white-nationalist protesters, killing a woman. A state police helicopter monitoring the events crashed into the woods, killing two troopers. In all, dozens of people were injured. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer, who attended the rally, denied all responsibility for the violence. He blamed the counter-protesters and police.
Trump condemned what he called an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” a statement that Democrats and some of the president’s fellow Republicans saw as equivocating about who was to blame. The White House later added that the condemnation “includes white Supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups.”
Some of the white nationalists at Saturday’s rally cited Trump’s victory, after a campaign of racially charged rhetoric, as validation for their beliefs. Some of the people protesting Sunday also point to the president and his campaign, saying they gave license to racist hatred that built into what happened in Charlottesville.
“For those who questioned whether ‘oh, don’t call it fascism’ ... this should resolve those issues,” Reiko Redmonde, an organizer of a Refuse Fascism protest planned in San Francisco, said by phone. “People need to get out in the streets to protest, in a determined way.”