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Ugly scenes in Charlottesville, USA culminate ?in tragedy

Opinion Piece

Events in the North Carolina city of Charlottesville have cast a dark cloud over the start of a week that was already made uncomfortable by escalating tensions over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Clashes between ultra-right nationalists and those opposing them culminated in tragedy as a car was driven into a group, killing one woman and injuring 19 others.

A 20-year-old North Carolina man with white supremicist links was later arrested and charged with second degree murder.

The tension in Charlottesville has actually been building for months, after a decision to take down a statue of Confederate general Robert E Lee who is still revered by many in the South.

The right-wingers had planned a major rally but after violent clashes this was cancelled by authorities. The deadly attack came as the two groups continued to confront each other.

President Donald Trump made a statement condemning all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred — then added “on many sides”, which drew criticism from both Republican and Democrat members of Congress and other commentators.

In fairness to Trump he is right to a degree to spread the blame.

The situation was prompted by the rally which was organised by a distasteful group of neo-Nazis and KKK members including their former Grand Wizard David Duke. Their repeated Nazi salutes were repugnant and thoroughly objectionable.

But the opposition group was far from a peaceful one. They were involved in a considerable amount of violence themselves and while in the eyes of most they have right on their side, they are not blameless . . . however, nothing they did warranted the murderous actions of the car driver.

It is a classic case of trying to find a balance between the right of free speech in a democracy, even when it is distasteful, and the need to ban clear hate language.

Racial issues, going all the way back to the Civil War and even further, continue to dog the United States into the 21st century. Charlottesville is just the latest in a long list of other tragedies.