North Carolina Democrats kept their focus – and their blame – on violent white supremacists and white nationalists Tuesday, even after a group of protesters destroyed a Confederate soldier statue in Durham on Monday evening.
“The continued display of racial hatred by white nationalist organizations is damaging to families and communities all across America. What we saw in Durham (Tuesday) night is an outgrowth of the actions by white nationalists,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Wilson Democrat whose 1st Congressional District includes Durham County.
White nationalists and neo-Nazis staged a protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday to protect a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The demonstration – one day after similar crowds gathered with tiki torches and made Nazi salutes – turned deadly when a man drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring more than a dozen others.
There were other beatings and fights during the protests, including the beating of a black man by several white men in a parking garage that was caught on video.
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“If the KKK and the neo-Nazis continue to commit crimes against other Americans, we’re going to continue to see a response by people of good will,” Butterfield said. “... It may be to the boiling point. The American people must very quickly figure this out and understand we’re a land of the free and that all people are equal in our society.”
Butterfield called for Congress to pass a resolution when it returns from August recess. He wants it to denounce white supremacists in simple, clear language.
“We will not tolerate white supremacist organizations in America inflicting violence on American communities,” Butterfield said.
Gov. Roy Cooper, a first-term Democrat, pointed to the violence in Charlottesville in a gentle rebuke Monday night to the protesters who tore down the statue in Durham.
“The racism and deadly violence in Charlottesville is unacceptable but there is a better way to remove these monuments,” Cooper tweeted.
A 2015 state law, signed by then-Gov. Pat McCrory, prohibits removing or relocating monuments from public property without permission from the N.C. Historical Commission. Rep. David Price, a Chapel Hill Democrat, called on the state to change that law.
“Although our President apparently needed two tries to condemn the actions of neo-Nazis and white-supremacists, elected officials in both parties stood in solidarity to denounce the hate groups responsible for the events of this weekend,” Price said Tuesday. “Congress must now ensure that the federal government devotes attention and resources commensurate to this threat. I also call on states such as North Carolina to eliminate legal barriers preventing local communities from taking action to remove vestiges of our racist past.”
Democratic groups in North Carolina have seized on the moment to pressure President Donald Trump to remove several members with nationalist views from his administration, including White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.
Trump’s initial statement on Charlottesville, one in which he blamed “many sides” for the violence, infuriated many on the left – and generated some criticism from the right. Trump made a stronger statement denouncing white nationalists Monday.
Said Butterfield: “We’re counting on President Trump to continue to condemn these terrorist organizations and let the world know America does not tolerate white supremacy.”
Indivisible Triangle Daily Call to Action is urging its members to call for the dismissal of Bannon, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka in its letters and calls to members of Congress. Bannon could be on his way out, according to The New York Times.
“After what happened in Virginia and the reaction of the President and his comments about it, it just became very critical and the timing was there,” said Dewey Botts, a 73-year-old retiree from Franklin County. “I see what this President’s popularity is now and that speaks enough. ... There’d be about 90 percent of the (American) people who would like these people (Bannon, Miller and Gorka) to get out.”
Botts was among a small group of Indivisible members protesting outside Rep. George Holding’s office in Raleigh Tuesday.
“I’m part of a resist group. I’m getting ready to be part of a block group. I’m for things that kids and families can be around,” Botts said. “I’d rather keep hammering away on this (firing of Bannon). The fact that it was against a state statue, that concerns me.”
The Confederate soldier statue was erected in May of 1924 and the statue was owned by Durham County.
Brian Murphy: 202.383.6089; @MurphinDC