May slams Trump for failing to condemn far-right after Charlottesville violence

August 16 2017, 6.13amUpdated: August 17 2017, 12.13am
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Theresa May has criticised Donald Trump for not singling out white supremacists for criticism following deadly unrest in Virginia, insisting there is “no equivalence” between fascists and their opponents.

The Prime Minister spoke out after the US President failed to condemn far-right demonstrators outright for violence in Charlottesville in which a woman was killed.

Mr Trump claimed “there is blame on all sides”, apparently equating the actions of far-right demonstrators with those protesting against them.

But Mrs May said: “I see no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them. I think it is important for all those in positions of responsibility to condemn far-right views wherever we hear them.”

Asked about Mr Trump’s comments in the wake of the violence, Mrs May told reporters in Portsmouth: “As I made clear at the weekend following the horrendous scenes that we saw in Charlottesville, I absolutely abhor the racism, the hatred and the violence that we have seen portrayed by these groups.

“The United Kingdom has taken action to ban far-right groups here, we have proscribed certain far- right groups here in the United Kingdom.

“And there is no equivalence.”

Mrs May spoke after senior Tories condemned Mr Trump, whose comments have also provoked criticism from both Republicans and Democrats in the US.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid tweeted: “Neo-Nazis: bad, Anti-Nazis: good, I learned that as a child. It was pretty obvious.”

Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson posted: “The President of the United States has just turned his face to the world to defend Nazis, fascists and racists. For shame.”

Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah tweeted: “The ‘leader of the free world’ loses moral authority when he cannot call fascism by its name.”

Violence erupted in Charlottesville on Saturday after a group of far-right extremists gathered to protest against a decision to remove a statue of a Confederate general.

Heather Heyer, 32, later died when a car was driven into crowds as anti-fascist demonstrators clashed with the white supremacists.

Mr Trump faced heavy criticism in the immediate wake of the unrest after he said there was blame on “many sides”.

He took two days to condemn the actions of the far-right groups in particular, eventually branding the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists “repugnant to everything that we hold dear as Americans”, in a statement on Monday.

However, during a turbulent press conference at his Manhattan residence on Tuesday, the president appeared to have reverted to his previous position.

He acknowledged there were “some very bad people” among the statue protesters, but added: “You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”

In the hours after the comments the hashtag #ImpeachTrump trended worldwide on Twitter, while MPs from all sides criticised the president over his renewed stance.

Meanwhile, several Labour MPs and Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable urged Mrs May to tear up her offer to Mr Trump of a state visit to Britain.

Sir Vince said: “Donald Trump has shown he is unable to detach himself from the extreme-right and racial supremacists.

“The fact he remains highly dependent on White House advisers from the extreme-right shows he is firmly anchored in this detestable world view.

“It would be completely wrong to have this man visit the UK on a state visit.”

Shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith tweeted: “A state visit by #DonaldTrump would shame this country and betray all we stand for. Theresa May should revoke the invitation immediately.”

Mrs May has faced repeated criticism over her decision to offer a state visit to her US counterpart shortly after he took office.

However the controversial occasion was reportedly put on hold after Mr Trump grew concerned that he would be greeted by protests on arrival.

Number 10 sources said at the time that no date had been fixed, but officials were believed to be looking at 2018.

The Holocaust Educational Trust said the actions of far-right groups in Charlottesville were shocking and horrifying.

The trust’s chief executive Karen Pollock said: “The Holocaust did not start with the gas chambers, it started with words; with hate-filled rhetoric.

“To therefore see neo-Nazi, racist and antisemitic symbols and language used in Charlottesville should shock and horrify all of us.

“Such hate has no place in our society and we all have a responsibility to act wherever it rears its head.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn echoed Mrs May’s insistence there is no equivalence between fascists and their opponents as he criticised Mr Trump.

Speaking on a visit to Cumbria, Mr Corbyn told the Press Association: “What happened was a group of the far-right turned up in Charlottesville – KKK supporters, Nazis, white supremacists – in order to cause trouble.

“A group of people objected to their presence and there is no equivalence between both sides.”

He went on: “I can find nothing decent about anything the KKK or Nazis say or have ever said.

“Surely for goodness sake have we not learnt the lessons of what happened in the earlier part of the 20th Century, surely we have learned the lessons of the brave people that marched from Selma to Montgomery, there can be no return to those days.

“I hope president Trump will recognise he is the president of the United States. And that includes all of the people of the United States.”

Mr Corbyn, in a later statement, added: ” Donald Trump should unequivocally condemn those who want to reverse the achievements of the civil rights movement and take us back to the days of Jim Crow.

“And Theresa May cannot remain silent while the US President refuses categorically to denounce white supremacists and neo-Nazi violence.”

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