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Trump condemns ‘many sides’ in Charlottesville violence; Prominent Republicans blame white supremacists

By Greg Hadley and Amy B Wang

McClatchy and The Washington Post

President Donald Trump addressed the country Saturday afternoon in the aftermath of violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white supremacist groups and counter protesters.

In televised remarks, Trump said he and his administration “condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides. On many sides.”

“It’s been going on for a long time in our country,” Trump said. “Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.”

Trump went on to say that “no citizen should ever fear for their safety; the hate and division must stop now.”

“I love all the people of our country. We're gonna make America great again but we're gonna make it great for all the people of the United States of America,” Trump continued.

Trump’s remarks came soon after the mayor of Charlottesville tweeted that one person had died as a result of the protests. In his remarks, he did not address this report, but he did call for a “swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives.”

Trump’s comments also came shortly after he tweeted about the protests Saturday afternoon, saying there is "no place for this kind of violence in America."

"We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for," the president stated on Twitter shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday. "Lets come together as one!"

Trump’s remarks have brought reactions from Republicans as well as Democrats.

A Republican senator from Colorado, Cory Gardner, tweeted “Mr. President - we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.”

Another Republican, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, wrote: “Nothing patriotic about #Nazis, the #KKK or #WhiteSupremacists. It’s the direct opposite of what #America seeks to be.”

The father of Trump’s press secretary, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, posted that white supremacy is the “worst kind of racism-it’s EVIL and perversion of God’s truth to ever think our Creator values some above others.”

Trump was later criticized Saturday evening for tweeting about the people who died when a State Police helicopter crashed, but not mentioning the 32-year-old female pedestrian who was killed when a car plowed into a crowd of counter protesters. The President later tweeted his condolences to her family.

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."