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Richard Spencer: ‘Charlottesville Wouldn’t Have Occurred Without Trump’

The massive white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 would not have been possible without President Trump, event leader Richard Spencer told The Atlantic.

The magazine published what it called “An Oral History Of Trump’s Bigotry,” documenting decades of statements and actions evincing bias. A chapter about the Charlottesville rally featured Spencer, the creator of the term “alt-right” who did a Nazi-like salute at a white nationalist conference to celebrate Trump’s 2016 election victory and who was famously punched in the face while in Washington to celebrate Trump’s inauguration.

“There is no question that Charlottesville wouldn’t have occurred without Trump,” Spencer told the Atlantic. “It really was because of his campaign and this new potential for a nationalist candidate who was resonating with the public in a very intense way. The alt-right found something in Trump. He changed the paradigm and made this kind of public presence of the alt-right possible.”

The August 12 rally was ostensibly to protest the city of Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee – though several marchers have since pleaded guilty to having gone to the march with the express purpose of starting violence. One woman, Heather Heyer, was killed that day when a white supremacist ran his car into her.

At a press conference hours later, Trump condemned violence “on many sides,” and a day later said there were “very fine people on both sides.” Then-Charlottesville mayor Mike Signer, who is Jewish, was shocked. “This was a coordinated invasion of the city by violent right-wing militias,” he recounted. “I watched a clip of the president and my mouth fell open, and I was at once ashamed for him and for the country.”

Other aspects of the Atlantic oral history recounted Trump’s history of alleged housing discrimination, his public campaigns against the Central Park Five and Native American casino operators, alleged racism on the set of “The Apprentice” and his leadership of “birtherism.”

Contact Aiden Pink at pink@forward.com.

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