Trump Compares Campus Protests to Violent White Supremacist Rally in Charlottesville

Former President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday played down the violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 while portraying a recent wave of vocal but predominantly peaceful pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses as “riots.”

One woman was killed and nearly 40 people were injured when an avowed neo-Nazi plowed his car through a crowd of counterprotesters during violent clashes in Charlottesville. Earlier, hundreds of white supremacists had marched through the city, carrying torches and chanting, “Jews will not replace us.”

The current campus protests, while resulting in dozens of arrests, have had no reports of significant violence.

In a post on his social media site, peppered with random capitalization, Mr. Trump said: “Joe Biden would say, constantly, that he ran because of Charlottesville,” he wrote of the 2020 election. “Well, if that’s the case, he’s done a really terrible job because Charlottesville is like a ‘peanut’ compared to the riots and anti-Israel protests that are happening all over our Country, RIGHT NOW.”

Mr. Trump also repeated an attack on President Biden, saying that he “HATES Israel and Hates the Jewish people,” while adding “the problem is that he HATES the Palestinians even more, and he just doesn’t know what to do!?!?”

Representatives for the Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Biden campaign also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Trump — who also presided over civil unrest set off by the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in May 2020 — sought to downplay a chapter of his presidency that garnered widespread outrage and criticism.

In Charlottesville’s aftermath, Mr. Trump repeatedly drew a moral equivalency between the white supremacists — who brandished swastikas, Confederate flags and “Trump/Pence” signs — and peaceful counterprotesters, asserting that there were “very fine people on both sides.”

Underpinning the Charlottesville gathering of neo-Nazis, antisemites and white supremacists was a racist conspiracy theory, called the great replacement theory, which says that elites, sometimes manipulated by Jews, seek to “replace” and disempower white Americans. The growing prominence of the theory in far-right circles has incited racist terror attacks across the world, including several mass shootings in the United States.

Mr. Biden has in recent months faced protests and opposition to his presidential campaign from Americans who are sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians and angry at the United States for arming Israel in the fighting in Gaza. Mr. Trump’s social media post on Wednesday sought to portray many of these protesters as a riotous mob, while also seeking to stoke protesters’ anger by claiming that Mr. Biden hates the Palestinians.

Mr. Trump has also repeatedly insulted Jews who vote for Democrats and for Mr. Biden, saying that they hate their religion and Israel.

Some of the campus demonstrations have included hate speech and expressions of support for Hamas, the militant group in Gaza that carried out attacks on Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people. In response to those attacks by Hamas, Israel has waged a war on Gaza, killing more than 34,000 people, mostly women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. This week Mr. Biden condemned demonstrations that he said veered into antisemitism, but he also expressed sympathy for the Palestinians.

“I condemn the antisemitic protests,” Mr. Biden told reporters on Monday. “I also condemn those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians.”

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