After a "Unite the Right" rally was called to protest the city of Charlottesville, Virginia's plan to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park (formerly Lee Park), counter-protesters clashed with the protesters, leading to fist fights, the throwing of water bottles, and the unleashing of chemical sprays. The violence turned deadly when a man drove a Dodge Challenger into a group of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer, a young woman. Police arrested James Alex Fields, Jr., of Ohio, for the incident. The alleged attack with an automobile also injured 19 others.
Jason Kessler, one the protest’s organizers, blamed the city government for the violence, stating, “All of the carnage that happened was because the Charlottesville city government would not recognize our right to assemble.” As if to prove his accusation, his planned news conference on Sunday was interrupted by counter-protesters who threatened him with bodily harm, but the state police did not protect his right to a public speech. Kessler later declared that his “First Amendment rights [were] being trampled on” when the police escorted him away, rather than ensuring his right to free speech.
The police did arrest Robert Litzenberger after he allegedly spat on Kessler, and charged him with misdemeanor assault and battery, but law enforcement did not protect Kessler's right to speak.
As Kessler was chased away from the press conference, the crowd chanted “Shame,” and shouted the name of the woman who was killed on Saturday.
When President Trump condemned the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” he was harshly criticized for not restricting his condemnation to those protesting against the removal of the Lee statue, who were uniformly referred to as “White Nationalists” and “Nazis.” “Of course, that includes white supremacists, KKK, Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups,” the White House said in a statement, after some tried to unfairly tie President Trump to the violence that erupted over the weekend.
One must conclude that some believe violence by leftists against others is acceptable, as is demonstrated on many college campuses across America. Apparently, many of the counter-protesters simply do not believe in freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, both protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Sadly, this even seems to be the view of Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who stated that “the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today” need to “go home.” Stressing his point even more, he added, “There is no place for you here. There is no place for you in America.… Go home and never come back.”
While one can sympathize with McAuliffe’s animosity against violent white supremacists and Nazis, it is not quite clear where he thought “home” for the alleged Nazis and white supremacists is, if they are American citizens. We can find their views reprehensible, but since when it is in the authority of the governor of Virginia to decide what social views are so reprehensible that these people are to be deported? Even during the worst of the Cold War, open communists who broke no laws were neither expelled from the country nor imprisoned simply for being communists.
While many patriotic Americans revere General Lee and take offense at the removal of statues honoring him and other Confederate icons, it is also true that some of those protesting the city’s efforts to take down his statue could be rightly classified as Nazis or at least "white supremacists.” But just as communists have used legitimate grievances to advance their agenda, so do Nazis.
Of course, the presumption by the mainstream media and their allies is that these Nazis are just more extreme versions of conservatives. Nazi, however, is simply a shorthand way of saying “National Socialist,” like “commie” is an abbreviated version of "communist." Socialists are leftists. They are not on the “Right.”
Unfortunately, such incidents have the end result of advancing the goals of National Socialists and others on the Left. Such violent confrontations only enhance the appeal of violent extremists, of whatever political ideology.
As vile as these Nazi, communist, or fascist ideologies are, it is not an appropriate response to suspend civil liberties — even to the extreme of deporting those American citizens who hold these despicable views.
In the 1970s, the American Nazi Party decided to march in Skokie, Illinois, right through a neighborhood that was home to many survivors of the Nazi-led Holocaust. The governments of both the city and the state made efforts to suspend the right of free assembly of the Nazi protesters. Fortunately, a Jewish man filed a First Amendment challenge to the city’s efforts to suspend the rights of the American National Socialists. The courts agreed with him, and the march took place. No one was killed — and no one was even injured.
Sadly, that respect for the right to free assembly and free speech did not take place in Charlottesville, Virginia, the home of Thomas Jefferson and the University of Virginia, which he founded. The outcome of this event was a good example of what happens when we respect and protect liberty only for the views we like. When protesters are denied the right to protest peacefully, the resulting violence is regrettable, but not surprising.