Wake up and smell the Nazis: Protesters link rise in fascism to Donald Trump's election campaign

Shocked and angry Americans took to the streets of cities across the nation in protest after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville descended into deadly violence.

Shocked and angry Americans took to the streets of cities across the nation in protest after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia descended into deadly violence. Many Americans link a rise in fascism in the US to Donald Trump's election campaign, saying he courted the far right. Indeed, some of the white nationalists at the rally in Charlottesville cited Trump's victory, after a campaign of racially charged rhetoric, as validation for their beliefs.

A man carries a sign reading: 'Wake up and smell the Nazis' during an anti-fascism rally outside the White House in Washington, DCJonathan Ernst/Reuters

In New York, protesters marched to Trump Tower and demanded the president denounce the white nationalist groups involved in the violent confrontations. Carl Dix, a leader of the Refuse Fascism group organising demonstrations in New York, San Francisco and other cities, told AP something must be done about the rise of fascism: "People need to wake up, recognise that and resist it as fearlessly as it needs to be done. This can't be allowed to fester and to grow because we've seen what happened in the past when that was allowed."

Helen Rubenstein, 62, was among hundreds of people who marched through Los Angeles. She said her parents were Holocaust survivors, and she's worried that extremist views were becoming normal under Trump's presidency. "I blame Donald Trump 100 percent because he emboldened all these people to incite hate, and they are now promoting violence and killing," Rubenstein told AP.


A vigil honouring the victims of the violence was held outside the White House in Washington, DC. The slogans on many of the signs carried by protesters were aimed at the President, including "Wake up and smell the Nazis" and "Choose a side Donnie, it's not that hard".

A man holds a placard aimed at Donald Trump outside the White House in Washington, U.SJonathan Ernst/Reuters
A protester holds a sign reading "There are not 'many sides', Denounce domestic white terrorism" at a march against white nationalism in Times Square in New YorkJoe Penney/Reuters
Protesters carry a banner while taking part in a march against racism in Oakland, CaliforniaJosh Edelson/AFP
A demonstrator holds signs during a rally held in Oakland, California, in response to the Charlottesville, Virginia car attack on counter-protestersStephen Lam/Reuters
Demonstrators march in Oakland, California, to protest against the rise of white supremacist movements in the USStephen Lam/Reuters
A demonstrator holds sign during a rally held in Oakland, California after o the Charlottesville car attack on counter-protestersStephen Lam/Reuters
People hold anti-fascist placards in Chicago during a protest against white nationalistsJoshua Lott/AFP
Demonstrators march towards a statue of General Albert Pike, the only member of the Confederate military with an outdoor statue in the US capitalZach Gibson/AFP
Demonstrators hold signs durign a vigil outside the White House in Washington, DCZach Gibson/AFP
A protester carries an anti-fascism placard at a rally in Chicago, IllinoisScott Olson/Getty Images
Protesters rally against white supremacism and racism in Columbus Circle in New YorkDrew Angerer/Getty Images

Charlottesville descended into violence after neo-Nazis, skinheads, Ku Klux Klan members and other white nationalists gathered to "take America back" and oppose plans to remove a Confederate statue in the Virginia college town, and hundreds of other people came to protest against the rally. The groups clashed in street brawls, with hundreds of people throwing punches and beating each other with sticks and shields.

Eventually, a car rammed into a peaceful crowd of anti-white-nationalist protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Former US Army enlistee James Alex Fields Jr, 20, a white Ohio man described by a former high school teacher as having been "infatuated" with Nazi ideology as a teenager, is due to be appear in court on murder and other charges stemming from the deadly car crash.

A Virginia State Police helicopter deployed in a large-scale response to the violence then crashed into the woods outside of town. Both troopers on board died.

Car plows into protesters in Charlottesville, VA after white supremacy rally violenceCredit: Storyful
People gather in front of the White House in Washington, DC during a vigil to remember the victims of violence at the Unite the Right rally in CharlottesvilleZach Gibson/AFP
People gather in Chicago to protest against racism and hate, and to mourn the victims of the rally in CharlottesvilleScott Olson/Getty Images
A woman holds a sign during a vigil in Chicago for Heather Heyer, who was killed in Charlottesville when a car ploughed into a crowd of peopleJoshua Lott/AFP

Democrats and Republicans criticised Trump for waiting too long to address the violence – the first major domestic crisis he has faced as president

When news of the situation in Charlottesville first started filtering out on Friday, Trump was silent. He first addressed the matter — through a tweet — on Saturday afternoon, after a planned white-supremacist rally had been dispersed, fights had broken out, and a state of emergency declared. By the time Trump finally appeared before reporters, footage of a car slamming into a crowd of protesters had swamped social media and cable TV networks.

Trump read a statement rebuking the violence, but without specifically mentioning or faulting the role of white nationalists. "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides - on many sides," Trump said. Afterwards, he ignored shouted questions from reporters as to whether he would denounce white supremacism and whether the car incident constituted terrorism.


That silence was cheered by the white supremacist website Daily Stormer: "When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him." A White House spokesperson later said Trump's remarks were meant to include the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups.

Luke Mueller holds a placard at a vigil in Philadelphia in support of the victims of violence at the Unite the Right rally In CharlottesvilleJessica Kourkounis/Getty Images
A protester in New York carries a placard referencing Donald Trump and the Ku Klux KlanDrew Angerer/Getty Images
A supporter of President Donald Trump makes his voice heard during a protest against white supremacy and racism in New YorkDrew Angerer/Getty Images

Both as a candidate and as president, Trump has met with charges that he has courted the support of white supremacists and nationalists, the so-called "alt-right," as a key part of his passionate voter base. He was forced to publicly denounce the Ku Klux Klan and one of its leaders, David Duke. After Trump was elected, he installed Steve Bannon, a trusted figure in nationalist circles and former chairman of the hard-right outlet Breitbart News, as a top adviser in the White House.

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