What happened in Charlottesville

Sat, 2017/08/26

On the evening of August 11, a group of 250 white supremacists marched across the University of Virginia campus in preparation for the Unite the Right rally being held the next day. Carrying tiki torches and chanting “Jews will not replace us,” the group met resistance from a small group of student counter protestors. As videos and tweets of the altercations went viral, individuals from across the political spectrum began to mobilize – some to join the rally, and some to join the steadily growing group of counter protesters. When the Unite the Right rally began the next day, members of the rally continued to chant slogans associated with the Nazi party and began to racially harass non-white counter protesters, with one group beating an African American man in a parking garage.  As the violence intensified, one woman, Heather Heyer, died after being purposefully run over by a member of the Unite the Right rally and dozens were left injured in clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters. By noon, the city of Charlottesville declared the assembly unlawful and Virginia's governor, Terry McAuliffe, declared a state of emergency, bringing in the state police and forcing both groups to disperse.  As the clashes ended, politicians on both sides of the aisle condemned white supremacists for the violence which took place – with the notable exception of President Donald Trump.  President Trump’s statement condemned violence on “many sides”, particularly the “alt-left.”  As his statement began to draw criticism from both Democrats and Republicans and praise from white supremacist and neo-Nazi organizations, a critical question arose: what really happened in Charlottesville?

Despite prominent Democrats and Republicans agreeing that white supremacists and neo-Nazis were to blame for the violence, there is a different story being told by members of a new political party altogether: supporters of President Trump.  In an interview with CNN, a panel of Trump supporters began to tell a very different story than that reported by the mainstream media.  It was the violent left who purposefully incited the riot to make President Trump look bad (despite him having no prior connection to the rally) and there was no proof it was actual white supremacists attending the rally.  Members of the panel claimed to have seen counter protesters hired on Craigslist, and had heard thirdhand stories of individuals wearing Black Lives Matter and Klu Klux Klan shirts coming off the same buses.  Throughout the CNN interview, one phrase was continually repeated by members of the panel when asked if white supremacists were the ones inciting violence: “It hasn’t been investigated, so we don’t really know.”  The stark contrast between the condemnation of a violent left known only through unverified Facebook posts and thirdhand stories, and the uncertainty with which facts reported by the mainstream media were treated further solidified a growing trend of some Trump supporters to take the opinions of the president as fact over verified sources and evidence.

As more protests and counter protests on both sides are being planned across the country, one thing becomes increasingly clear: as members of the left and right continue to isolate themselves within a political echo chamber, there are no longer two sides to every story.  There are now two entirely different stories.