As tensions escalated during “pro-white” demonstration in Charlottesville, Va., on Friday night into chaos and violence Saturday morning before a planned a white nationalist rally that left one dead and dozens injured, Utah leaders and activists took to Twitter to condemn hatred.
On Friday night, longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, tweeted that hate “has no place in civil society.”
Following clashes Saturday morning, Hatch sent another tweet, saying Americans should call “evil by its name” and that his brother had not given his life fighting Hitler in World War II for ”Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”
About 11 a.m. Saturday, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency amid hundreds of people throwing punches and water bottles before the rally even officially started, and police in riot gear ordered protesters — both white nationalists and counterdemonstrators — to disperse, according to a report by The Washington Post.
Photos from the rally showed protesters waving Confederate flags and Nazi symbols.
About two hours after the violent clashes, a car plowed into protesters who were marching through downtown, killing one and injuring more than a dozen others. The driver, later identified as James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, as well as other crimes.
“It‘s hard to explain to my children now that this is happening,” said state Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City. ”We’re repeating history on so many levels.”
She called the violence ”tragic” and “devastating.” The hatred doesn’t represent the vast majority of Americans, she said, nor did the rise of racism happen overnight.
This is a time to reflect, as a nation, she said, adding that “this is a conversation that needs to happen tonight,” starting with families.
“This nation has been through a lot,” Escamilla said. “To be where we are and to regress would be very unfortunate, and I think most Americans do not believe that‘s the right place we want to be.”
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, wrote in an email to The Salt Lake Tribune that “these acts do not represent the America that I know.”
“The hatred and bigotry on display in Charlottesville is unacceptable,” he said.
Mormon Women for Ethical Government, a group that has fought against deportations in Utah, called for civil discourse and decried racism ”where its ugly tentacles reach.”
“We stand with the good citizens of Charlottesville, Virginia, who are being singled out because of skin color or religion by gangs of cowardly white supremacists,” spokeswoman Sharlee Mullins Glenn wrote in a statement. ”We believe in the inherent dignity of every human being. Our beloved nation was inspired by the ideal of a government that was not tribal, but based on rule of law, fairness and equal opportunity for all.”
Gov. Gary Herbert was unavailable for comment, but sent two tweets condemning the violence.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams called the hatred ”terribly sad” in a Facebook post.
”Pro-white” activists had gathered to protest the city’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park in downtown Charlotte.
Some protesters flew flags for the American Vanguard, a national group associated with two flyers that were posted on the University of Utah campus last week.
The U.’s senior administrators also added their voice to those who condemned Saturday’s events, expressing support for the University of Virginia community in a tweet.
In a tweet, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski called on the community to reject the racist posters and the hatred at the Charlottesville rally.
“We must all come together and turn our backs on hate,” she said.