16 Aug 2017

'Both sides' to blame for Charlottesville violence - Trump

9:15 am on 16 August 2017

US President Donald Trump has again criticised both sides for the violent unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, which left one protester dead and others injured.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump, pictured at this morning's news conference, faced criticism for failing to specifically condemn white supremacists in his initial comments. Photo: AFP

In a statement on Monday, he had condemned white supremacists.

But in New York today he also blamed left-wing supporters for charging at the "alt-right".

"They came at each other with clubs ... it was a horrible thing to watch," Mr Trump told reporters in response to questions in the lobby of Trump Tower, before adding that left-wing protesters "came violently attacking the other group".

The trouble erupted after hundreds of white nationalists converged in Charlottesville to protest plans to remove a statue of General Robert E Lee, commander of the pro-slavery Confederate army in the US Civil War.

Mr Trump said those defending the statue had included "many fine people".

He asked whether statues of former presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson should also be torn down, because they had been slave-owners.

Heather Heyer, 32, died and 19 others were hurt when a car was driven into people protesting against the far-right march on Saturday. A 20-year-old Ohio man, James Fields, said to have harboured Nazi sympathies, was charged with murder, malicious wounding and leaving the scene of a fatal accident.

Mr Trump said that the car driver was a disgrace to himself and his country.

But Mr Trump faced a storm of criticism from Democrats and members of his own Republican Party over his initial response to the violence around the rally in the Southern college town.

Mr Trump today explained his initial restrained response by saying: "The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement, but you don't make statements that direct unless you know the facts. It takes a little while to get the facts."

Earlier today, Mr Trump hit back at business leaders who quit a presidential advisory panel in protest, calling the executives "grandstanders".

Three business leaders quit a Trump panel in protest on Monday and on Tuesday, Alliance for American Manufacturing president Scott Paul said on Twitter he was also resigning.

Mr Trump bowed on Monday to two days of pressure for a more forceful response, singling out groups behind the "Unite the Right" rally that were widely seen as stoking the disturbances. But he was still clearly frustrated over the reaction to his response.

"For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place. Grandstanders should not have gone on. JOBS!" Mr Trump said on Twitter on Tuesday.

- BBC / Reuters

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