Nearly 400 activists gathered outside Trump Tower Aug. 15 to protest President Donald Trump’s responses to recent violence in Charlottesville, Va.
The demonstrations, organized by Black Lives Matter and a number of other activist groups, came three days after violent clashes between hate groups, including neo-Confederates, neo-Nazis and white nationalists, and counterprotesters at a “Unite the Right” rally near a statue of Confederate General Robert. E. Lee in Charlottesville that was slated to be torn down. One person was killed and 19 others were injured when a 20-year-old Ohio man allegedly rammed his car into a crowd of anti-racist demonstrators at the August 12 rally.
The Chicago demonstration began around 4:30 p.m. in Federal Plaza, where speakers encouraged attendees to continue fighting against the Trump Administration, which they said has encouraged racial tension and violence. The protesters marched north along State Street to the Trump International Hotel and Tower, where they chanted slogans such as “No wall, no registry, no white supremacy,” decried violence against minorities by Chicago police and called for the removal of Trump from office.
The protests were peaceful and no arrests were reported, according to Chicago Police Department News Affairs Officer Christine Calace.
The day of the Charlottesville protests, Trump initially denounced the violence “on many sides.” Two days later, he made a second statement condemning by name the right-wing groups who instigated the conflict after lawmakers from both parties called on him to denounce the “alt-right” groups. However, at an event Tuesday, Trump doubled down on his original statements, saying again that both the hate groups and counterprotesters shared the blame for the clashes.
Many of the demonstrators said they saw this as implicit support of hate groups.
“I feel like [Trump] is really going out of his way to try to dismiss it and say [the violence] was more on the other side,” said 17-year-old Devonte Reed, a student at the University of Chicago Charter School Woodlawn Campus who marched at the head of the procession to Trump Tower. “The president should be able to say that this is wrong, but instead he went and blamed it on the other side.”
Although Trump has never overtly supported far-right hate groups, some believe his repeated calls to halt the flow of Muslim immigrants entering the United States and calls to build a wall along the Mexican border have emboldened such organizations.
After Trump’s statement on Charlottesville Tuesday comparing anti-racist protesters and white supremacists, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke, said on Twitter that Trump’s revised statement affirms his agenda.
“I was really not shocked by [the violence], but was just more disgusted,” said Loyola law student Erica Jewel, 24, who attended the rally. “It’s not that surprising that it’s happening, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything about it.”