German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke out on Monday against the extremist violence that unfolded over the weekend at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., and left three dead, including a 32-year-old woman who was there counter-protesting.
The remarks were issued through her spokesperson, and left no doubt about her thinking on the matter. “The scenes at the right-wing extremist march were absolutely repulsive — naked racism, anti-Semitism and hate in their most evil form were on display,” Steffen Seibert told reporters.
“Such images and chants are disgusting wherever they may be and they are diametrically opposed to the political goals of the chancellor and the entire German government,” he continued. He added that Merkel stands “with those who peacefully oppose such aggressive, far-right views” and emphasized “how much the chancellor regrets the death of a woman who fell victim” to “an evil attack” by a car driver. Heather Heyer was killed in the attack and remembered by her mother as a woman who was devoted to “stopping hatred.” James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old man from Ohio, was arrested as the suspected driver of the vehicle that slammed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heyer and injuring at least 19. A judge denied him bail on Monday after he was hit with second-degree murder charges, among others.
Merkel’s comments on the racial tensions and violence in Charlottesville stand in stark contrast to President Donald Trump’s remarks. Trump had come under considerable criticism from both sides of the political divide for his denunciation of violence on “many sides” and his failure to specifically condemn white nationalists and neo-Nazis by name. On Monday, a little after noon, Trump issued a statement at the White House in which he condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups as “repugnant” and said “racism is evil.” Watch a clip of the video below. It comes two days after his first video statement on the violence in Charlottesville, in which he was unable to use such language.
In recent months, political observers have said that Merkel has assumed the role of “leader of the free world” — a title typically used to the describe the President of the United States, but one that many say Trump has abdicated in the months since his inauguration. It’s this contrast in leadership style and ability to speak swiftly in no uncertain terms that is bound to further cement her as setting the pace ahead of Trump in times of national tragedy that call for a strong leader.
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