Both sides? Let’s look.
In the 1930s, gangs of Nazi and communist youth roamed Germany’s streets, brawling over which brand of socialism was superior—racialist National Socialism, or class war international communism. On Aug. 12 in Charlottesville Virginia, America got a taste of the same ideological blood lust.
The demonstration that turned into a riot cost the life of 32-year-old Heather Heyer and hospitalized about two dozen others.
Unite the Right (UTR), a group called alt-right but comprised of neo-Nazi and KKK-type groups, applied for a permit to demonstrate against Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
The city never issued a permit but—very late in the game—ordered the rally moved from Emancipation Park, a small park where the statue stood, to McIntire Park, a larger park farther north. The ACLU won an injunction moving the rally back to the statue, in part, because the judge said the city failed to submit anything showing the move was needed for safety reasons and because he found that the city based its decision on opposition to the sponsor’s opinions, making it a First Amendment violation.
On Friday night before the demonstration, UTR marched with torches chanting “Blood and Soil,” a white nationalist slogan that goes back to the days of Bill the Butcher and the 1800s gangs of New York.
The next morning, many of the UTR and the counter demonstrators—left-anarchist Antifa and extremist Black Lives Matter (BLM)—were wearing protective gear and carrying shields and sticks. According to the UTR, the police unnecessarily forced UTR demonstrators to walk a gauntlet lined with BLM activists to get to the park and they were attacked. A riot ensued. The alt-right chant “Blood and Soil” was met by BLM’s “We Will Replace You,” and “We own the Streets.”
The ACLU agrees with the UTR that most of the blame for the riot falls on the poorly prepared, indifferent or even hostile police. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, declared an “unlawful assembly” and the UTR never held the demonstration. The UTR then found themselves cut off and attacked in small groups by the angry mob. There was a bloody scuffle in a parking garage. BLM’s “Bash the fash” was primarily about hurling bottles filled with excrement and concrete chips. Minutes later a car driven by young Alex Fields slammed into a car surrounded by a crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing Ms. Heyer. The left immediately demanded he be prosecuted as a terrorist, but video evidence suggests he may have panicked when his car was hit by BLM clubs. In Virginia law, a driver confronted by a hostile mob has the right to drive through, even if people are hit. A jury will have to sort it out.
UTR leader Jason Kessler later tried to give a press conference, but he was shouted down and grabbed by BLM members and could not speak. Our First Amendment protects the right of extremists of all kinds to preach ugly, confused rhetoric.
While a classical liberal government must defend the right to speak, including hate speech, it cannot allow actual violence. The police did a poor job, people were hurt and killed, and now the incident will be magnified throughout the media’s ideological echo chamber.
Whatever you think of race realism, immigration restriction, and other alt-right issues, the KKK and Stormfront Neo-Nazis are a small fringe of the alt-right. The United States has declared that National Socialism ideology is outside the Overton Window, the measure of the boundaries of acceptable political views. But where are Neo-Nazis in power today? BLM has many supporters who hold political office or are in college administrations. They are absolutely wrong when they claim hate speech is itself violence, and that justifies violence and the denial of First Amendment rights to protect people from hearing it. In recent years, nearly all the rhetorical and actual violence has been from the left.
If there were any “nice people” with the UTR, they never got an opportunity to be heard.