Standing Up to Hate

A gathering of hate groups in Virginia sparks violence. 

Edu Bayer/The New York Times

Marcus Martin (center), who was hit by a car that plowed through a group of counter-protesters at a rally, attends a memorial service in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Sunday. The service was held for Heather Heyer, the woman who was killed in the car attack.

Racism (hatred based on race) is on the minds of many Americans following a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last Saturday that turned deadly. The August 12 gathering included hundreds of white supremacists. Those are people who wrongly believe that white people are better than people of all other races. A group of counter-protesters showed up to oppose the white supremacists.

Jim McMahon

The white supremacists shouted racial slurs at the people who came to oppose them, and the protests turned violent. At one point, a man drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one woman and injuring 19 people. Police arrested someone hours later who they think was the driver. Photographs appear to show the man standing with white supremacist marchers earlier that day. Two Virginia state troopers were also killed when the helicopter they were flying to the protest crashed.

America's War

The white supremacists had traveled to Charlottesville to protest the city’s plan to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee from a park there. Lee led the Confederate Army in the American Civil War, which took place from 1861 to 1865.

The Confederate States of America, or the Confederacy, was made up of 11 Southern states. These states seceded (withdrew) from the United States, also known as the Union. The Confederacy believed that states should be able to allow slavery. The Union opposed slavery. The Union and the Confederacy fought for four years before Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865.

Hundreds of statues and memorials honoring Confederate leaders exist in former Confederate states, as well as in some states in the North. People have protested them for many years, arguing that they are symbols of racism. Others believe that they reflect America’s history and should remain.

The President's Response

Many Americans are upset by the comments President Donald Trump made after the violence. That day, he spoke out against the violence “on many sides.” Then on Tuesday, he said that there is “blame on both sides.”

Many people were outraged that the president placed some of the blame on those who were protesting hatred and racism. They were also angry that he did not quickly speak out against the white supremacists in particular. Many politicians in both of the main political parties—the Republicans (the party to which President Trump belongs) and the Democrats—spoke out against President Trump’s response.

“Charlottesville violence was fueled by one side: white supremacists spreading racism, intolerance & intimidation. Those are the facts,” Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia tweeted on Tuesday. Kaine was the Democratic vice presidential candidate in last year’s election.

On Thursday, Trump also tweeted his opposition to the movement to remove Confederate statues.

Monuments Come Down

While the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville remains standing, other cities have taken down Confederate monuments since Saturday’s violence. On Monday, workers removed a Confederate statue in Gainesville, Florida. In Baltimore, Maryland, the mayor had four Confederate statues removed early Wednesday morning. That same day, in Brooklyn, New York, two plaques honoring Lee were also removed.

Experts predict many more cities will remove their Confederate monuments. But many also fear that white supremacists will feel encouraged by Trump’s response and hold more rallies. If they do, many leaders from both political parties hope President Trump will speak out more quickly and forcefully against them.

Teaching Tolerance has lesson plans and other resources to teach children about identity, diversity, and justice at

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