Trump tightrope walk before rally

A protester at the University of Virginia on Sunday. (Reuters)

Washington: As white nationalists planned to gather in front of the White House on Sunday to mark the anniversary of last year's violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Donald Trump denounced "all types of racism" but did not specifically condemn the supremacists.

"Riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division," he wrote on Twitter on Saturday morning. "We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!"

Trump's general call for unity, as Washington braced for the possibility of violence between the white nationalists and counter-demonstrators, echoed his reluctance a year ago after the deadly Charlottesville rally to single out the supremacists for condemnation.

In what is seen as a defining mark of his presidency, he blamed "both sides" for the violence, eliciting widespread criticism for what was seen as drawing a moral equivalence between hate groups - some of whom supported his candidacy - and those who protested them.

Accusations of racism have shadowed Trump over his decades as a real estate mogul, reality TV star and President. Those claims have been renewed in recent weeks as he has questioned the intelligence of prominent black people such as LeBron James and Representative Maxine Waters and criticised professional football players for kneeling during the national anthem.

In a new memoir, Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former White House adviser tasked with outreach to African-Americans, claims that the President regularly used a racial slur while he was the host of the show "Celebrity Apprentice," though she never heard him say it herself.

Asked by a reporter about the book on Saturday at his club in Bedminster, New Jersey, the President held a hand to his mouth, as if to whisper, and said: "Lowlife. She's a lowlife."

The rally on Sunday, called Unite the Right II, is scheduled to take over Lafayette Square for two hours in the evening. Officers from the United States Park Police and the Washington police department will erect a barrier separating the white nationalists and the thousands of counter-protesters who intend to oppose them.

The Unite the Right group plans to have up to 400 people at the rally, according to the permit it received from the National Park Service, though the number in attendance could be considerably smaller.

An antiracism group, the Answer Coalition, was granted a permit in Lafayette Square for a group more than three times the size of Unite the Right's. Other groups of counter-protesters have permits to gather elsewhere in the city.

Last year in Charlottesville, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen and other members of hate groups marched through the University of Virginia campus shouting anti-Semitic slogans, then fought with counter-protesters in the city streets. A man who espoused neo-Nazi views drove his vehicle into the counterdemonstators, killing a 32-year-old woman, Heather D. Heyer.

New York Times News Service


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