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Alaska senators speak against bigotry in Charlottesville; hundreds of protesters turn out in Anchorage

  • Author: Alex DeMarban
  • Updated: August 13, 2017
  • Published August 13, 2017

President Donald Trump has faced widespread criticism for not explicitly condemning white supremacy following Saturday's violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, but Alaska's Republican senators on Sunday blasted the bigotry displayed there, as did a throng of peaceful protesters who gathered in Anchorage Sunday.

"The sight of white supremacists and neo-Nazis marching in an American city — or anywhere for that matter — is a disgrace," said Sen. Dan Sullivan in a message on his Facebook page Sunday afternoon. "Their hateful ideology, which seeks to undermine the dignity of people based on their race, is antithetical to American ideals and values."

The strong words came in response to the Charlottesville rally that turned violent as white nationalists — some carrying the Confederate flag and banners bearing the Nazi swastika — protested the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a city park, clashing with counter-demonstrators.

The violence left one person dead and injured many others when a car driven by James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters. The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into the car attack.

"I welcome the news that the U.S. Justice Department is investigating this incident of domestic terrorism, including the tragic murder and injury of peaceful protesters," added Sullivan, an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves.

On Facebook, Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski blasted the "hatred, anti-semitism and bigotry" seen in Charlottesville.

"We are a nation of one, united, committed to freedom and equality. Charlottesville is not the first time America has been confronted with such unacceptable horror," she said, saying that "America will not back down" from protecting the rights of all citizens.

The violence brought some 300 people to Anchorage Town Square Park Sunday afternoon in a demonstration calling for tolerance and to denounce white supremacy.

Word of the "Standing Against Racism" event in Anchorage spread rapidly on Facebook and was organized by We Are Anchorage, said Neisha Jones, a member of the community action group.

It was one of many events held throughout the country to show support for Charlottesville and to protest the white power movement, according to news reports.

Anchorage demonstrators held signs such as "No to Trump Amerikkka" and "I'm here 4 Heather and everyone hurt," a reference to the victim of the car attack, Heather D. Heyer, 32, of Charlottesville.

"Yesterday, we saw hate and barbarism march with swastikas," said Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, speaking to the crowd through a bullhorn. "We know what that threat means, and in the words of those who battled and defeated it before, I say never again."

"It is beyond offensive to see that symbol — it is treasonous and poisonous," said Berkowitz, who is Jewish.

The Anchorage rally reaffirms fundamental American values in the "face of violence" by white supremacists, bigots and terrorists, Kevin McGee, president of NAACP Anchorage, told the crowd.

"We are also here to defend our values against an assault from the president, who has offered home-grown terrorists comfort following their attacks on peaceful protesters," said McGee, speaking into a bullhorn.

Republican leaders and others on Saturday widely criticized Trump for blaming "many sides" for the deadly violence, while not specifically condemning white supremacy. A statement from the White House Sunday sought to clarify Trump's position, but it was not attributed to the president or any specific person, news outlets reported. It said Trump "condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred and of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups."

Tuckerman Babcock, chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, said he was confident Trump meant to condemn the white supremacist groups. He added that people shouldn't mince words when it comes to racially based protests.

Babcock said he opposes "white supremacists, black supremacists, any racially based supremacists."

"Anyone who judges people based on their race is just the scum of the earth," Babcock said.

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