Violent protests by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va. over the weekend have ignited outrage and condemnation from across the country, including at Penn.
On Aug. 12, hundreds of white nationalists gathered for a “Unite the Right” rally, partly to oppose the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a park in Charlottesville. Violence quickly erupted when they were met with counterprotesters and a white supremacist rammed a car into a group of counterprotesters, killing one person and injuring nine.
Two state troopers also died on Aug. 12 after a helicopter carrying two Virginia State Police troopers crashed and burned "on the outskirts of the University of Virginia campus," according to a report in The New York Times.
Penn President Amy Gutmann released a statement on August 13 stating that the the “racism, anti-Semitism, and other bigotry” from the white supremacist groups is “deeply abhorrent,” adding, “The hatred espoused is inimical to any decent society and anathema to the most fundamental ideals of our University.”
In a guest column published The Daily Pennsylvanian, Dean of Penn Law School Ted Ruger echoed Gutmann's statement and said he was "shocked and saddened" by the "deadly, violent events in Charlottesville."
Three residential and graduate advisors in Rodin College House have also released a statement writing that they "stand in support of the students at the University of Virginia who bravely and publicly stood up against white nationalists." One of the three students, rising senior Nayab Khan, said that they also organized over 100 residential and graduate advisors to take a solidarity photo in support of the Virginia students.
The statement ended by calling on the Penn administration to implement measures that protect Penn students from facing a similar experience.
"As RAGAs, we urge the University of Pennsylvania administration to develop protocol to keep students safe in the event that groups such as neo-Nazis, KKK, or other white supremacist groups target our community."
Notable Penn alumni have also spoken out. Musician John Legend, a 1999 College graduate, responded to a tweet about the protests by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) by calling on Ryan to “impeach the white supremacist in the White House.”
“We have nazi sympathizers and white nationalists in the White House. Condemn them too. They should not be receiving taxpayer money,” Legend added in a second tweet.
President Donald Trump on Saturday made a statement on the deadly protests, condemning "this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides — on many sides.” His repetition of “many sides” has been interpreted by many as equating the actions of the white supremacists with counterprotesters, prompting widespread criticism and dividing supporters of the Republican Party across the country.
On Monday, Trump made another statement on Charlottesville that called out “the K.K.K., neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups,” but many commentators felt that this condemnation had come too late. That evening, Trump tweeted, “Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realize once again that the #Fake News Media will never be satisfied... truly bad people!”
The president of the College Republicans chapter at Washington State University, was identified as a participant of the rally, where white nationalist protesters waved Confederate flags and chanted slogans like, “White lives matter,” and “Jews will not replace us.”
In contrast, Penn’s chapter of College Republicans posted a resounding condemnation of the white supremacist groups on Facebook.
“There was one ‘side’ that is responsible for the violence in Charlottesville. It was the side bearing Nazi and Confederate flags and carrying torches,” they wrote. “We believe it is paramount to denounce these groups and call them for what they are--white supremacists. We hope our elected officials will do the same.”
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