Kansas City area Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, D-Missouri, says he is disappointed by the number of young men involved in Charlottesville’s white nationalists rally over the weekend. A state of emergency has been declared in Virginia because of three deaths and several people injured as a result of the event involving about 1,500 rally supporters and protesters and 1,000 law enforcement officers. The event was made up of largely college age white men.
“Many in our country were moving toward the belief that young people were far ahead of their parents and grandparents on issues of race and so forth,” says Cleaver.
For extremist groups, young individuals are critical recruits because their minds can be radicalized.
“Many of their members wear three piece suits to work every day in banks, schools and even on Sunday mornings in churches,” he says.
A political analyst says a small number of the rally participants are President Donald Trump supporters.
Cleaver says Trump failed to show the country he can lead during a crisis like Charlottesville’s. He says Trump is being praised widely by hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis.
“When he refused to denounce bigotry with organizations and groups that are clearly organized for the purpose of hate, then I thought he had gone too far,” he says. “I have to say I dislike Donald Trump. I don’t call him names. I will simply declare that I dislike Donald Trump. Even though I now declare I dislike him, I will pray for him.”
Two days of bi-partisan criticism has prompted Trump to condemn today such hate groups.
Cleaver, who is African-American, says the American way gives everyone the right to speak, even if violence is planned.
“I think we’re going to see a lot of this in the future and I think we have to protect their right to proclaim anything and everything they want because this is the United States of America,” says Cleaver. “I think the moment they become violent, that right is stripped from them. This was domestic terrorism but as long as they don’t carry through on an act, they have the right to be ignorant and stupid verbally. Now it doesn’t mean we ought to allow them to espouse all of this hate without a response.”
Some reports question what side provoked the other.
“The people who are in the hospitals are the protesters. I’m not sure at all that there was any equivalency,” says Cleaver. “The people who have been arrested were with the right-wing groups. The hate groups were wearing helmets, which means they came prepared for violence and they came with protective gear.”
Cleaver, whose district also includes Lafayette, Saline and Ray counties, says the bright spot in the weekend’s rally was seeing the “white resistance” and Jewish organizations stand up against the rally supporters.