The “Unite the Right” rally, at which both white nationalists and counter-demonstrators were present, was held following the city’s plan to remove a statue memorializing the Confederate General Robert E. Lee. That Saturday, 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. was charged with second-degree murder after driving into a crowd of counter-demonstrators - killing 32-year-old Heather D. Heyer while injuring at least 19 others. The Justice Department later opened a civil rights investigation into the deadly crash.
In his initial statement, President Donald J. Trump blamed “many sides” on Saturday for the violence, but did not explicitly condemn white nationalists - thereby drawing criticism from across the political spectrum. He later adopted a more unifying tone on Monday in which he delivered remarks condemning the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups. Yet, at a press conference on Tuesday, however, President Trump reverted to his earlier tone in arguing that “there is blame on both sides.” His initial remarks led to three chief executives quickly resigning from a presidential advisory panel: Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of drugmaker Merck & Co Inc., Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich.
Both the initial remarks as well as the Tuesday comments led to various other chief executives resigning, ultimately leading to Trump’s dissolving of both the manufacturing council and the Strategic and Policy Forum.
A local resident of Charlottesville, Maria, echoed the thoughts of many stating that “a group of people who wish for the systematic exclusion or extermination of minorities is not morally equivalent to a group of people who strive for equality and inclusion.” She later added that “it is truly heartbreaking as a mother of two.” These events have prompted many to get involved and voice their concerns - led by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who declared that he is “disgusted by the hatred, bigotry and violence” displayed at the protests.