Trump condemns 'evil racism' and white supremacists following Charlottesville violence

Donald Trump returned to the White House from a working holiday. Credit: AP

Donald Trump has condemned the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and white supremacists as "criminals and thugs" and said "racism is evil", after violence at a far-right rally in Charlottesville left one woman dead and 19 people injured.

The US President returned to Washington from a working holiday amid growing criticism of his apparent failure to single out white supremacists for condemnation in his initial responses to the Virginia violence in which he condemned violence "on many sides".

Violence erupted on Saturday after hundreds of white nationalists converged for a "Unite the Right" march, protesting against the removal of a statue of a general who had fought for the pro-slavery Confederacy during the US Civil War.

Demonstrators included neo-Nazis and the KKK.

Heather Heyer, 32, died when a car ploughed into anti-fascist protesters opposing a major white nationalist march held over the weekend in the city.

Eyewitnesses said the driver deliberately rammed pedestrians.

An Ohio man, James Alex Fields Jr, 20, was arrested and has been charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count of "hit and run attended failure to stop with injury".

Officials have opened a civil rights investigation into the killing.

Giving an "update" on the "horrific attack and violence" in Charlottesville which was sparked by a decision by the city's authorities to remove a statue of Confederate forces commander Robert E Lee, President Trump condemned "racism, hatred and bigotry".

He said: "Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white-supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything that we hold dear as Americans.

"We are a nation founded by the truth that all of us are created equal.

"We are equal in the eyes of our creator, we are equal under the law, and we are equal under our constitution.

"Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America."

The president added: "As I have said many times before, no matter the colour of our skin, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God.

"We must love each other, show affection for each other, and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry and violence."

  • Video report by International Affairs Editor Rageh Omaar

It comes as it was revealed there are 917 hate groups in the US spread right across the country - 50% up since 2000.

Among them, 130 are Ku Klux Klan, 99 are Neo-Nazi and another 43 are neo-confederate.

Extremism expert Jasmine El-Gamal told ITV News: "Back in the 1950s and 60s when there were Klan rallies, people covered their faces.

"They couldn't show their face when they were chanting the things they were chanting.

"The fact that they were able to come to Charlottesville in the light of day and show their faces, really tells you that they feel very empowered right now.

"They feel like they have permission to out and say and do the things that they are doing."

James Fields has not been granted bail. Credit: EPA

Speaking at the White House on Monday, Mr Trump also paid tribute to two Virginia State Troopers who died "in service to their community, their Commonwealth and their country".

The two officials were killed when a police helicopter assisting in law enforcement efforts crashed southwest of the city, but state police said that no foul play was suspected.

Mr Trump continued: "These three fallen Americans embody the goodness and decency of our nation.

"In times such as these, America has always shown its true character, responding to hate with love, division with unity and violence with an unwavering resolve for justice."

At least 19 people were injured in the crash. Credit: AP