President Donald Trump broke his silence Saturday afternoon amid violent confrontations between white nationalist groups and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, tweeting that there was “no place for this kind of violence in America.”
“We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for,” the president said on Twitter shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday. “Lets come together as one!”
By then, a “Unite the Right” rally planned for noon – originally intended to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in the city’s Emancipation Park – had been canceled as Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency.
The president’s silence had been noticeable Friday night, as a few hundred tiki torch-bearing white supremacists – mostly young men – paraded through the University of Virginia campus while chanting racist taunts and flaunting Nazi paraphernalia.
Even as many online called for Trump to respond, his Twitter feed remained quiet into Saturday morning as the Charlottesville clashes escalated into open brawls and weapons being hurled into the air.
Vice President Mike Pence had also remained quiet until Trump tweeted his message Saturday, at which pointed the vice president appended it with a note urging people to “join together & oppose those seeking to divide us.”
Trump has been on a 17-day vacation at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, a point he reiterated in a follow-up tweet Saturday:
“Am in Bedminster for meetings & press conference on V.A. & all that we have done, and are doing, to make it better-but Charlottesville sad!”
His messages came about an hour after first lady Melania Trump addressed the tense protests taking place in Charlottesville. She tweeted:
“Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let’s communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence. #Charlottesville”
By then, other public figures had already spoken out forcefully against the demonstrations in Charlottesville. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan denounced the white supremacist views “fueling the spectacle” as “repugnant.”
In declaring a state of emergency in Virginia, Gov. McAuliffe said he was “disgusted by the hatred, bigotry and violence these protesters have brought to our state over the past 24 hours.”