In Brief

What is the alt-left? And is Trump right about it?

Trump blames protestors for "charging" at white supremacists, but are they really a threat?

US President Donald Trump sparked heated debate when he accused alt-left demonstrators of swinging clubs during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, suggesting they shared the blame for the deadly violence.

"I'm not putting anybody on a moral plane," Trump told reporters at a rowdy press conference last night. "You had a group on one side and group on the other and they came at each other with clubs – there is another side, you can call them the left, that came violently attacking the other group."

Trump was responding to questions about the "alt-right" – a movement described by the Daily Telegraph as "an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism and populism".

But Trump turned the tables on reporters: "What about the alt-left that came charging them? Do they have any semblance of guilt?"

Trump's insistence that "many sides" are to blame in Charlottesville has landed him in hot water yet again, but is he right about the alt-left?

What are the alt-left?

There is no clear definition of the alt-left.

The New York Times claims that researchers who study extremist groups say there is "no such thing as the alt-left" and that the term is "made up to create a false equivalence between the far right".

But Vanity Fair says the alt-left does exist and that it's a real threat to peace. The magazine cites "disillusionment with Obama's presidency, loathing of Hillary Clinton (and) disgust with identity politics" as primary facets of the movement.

Is Trump right?

The majority of those protesting against the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville did so peacefully, The Daily Telegraph reports.

"But photos and videos from Saturday's riot do show people dressed in black, their faces covered, engaging the neo-Nazis in violent confrontation," the paper adds.

USA Today, however, claims those demonstrating against the far right in Charlottesville were more closely linked to the "antifa" or "anti-fascist" movement than the so-called alt-left.

The antifa's roots date back to the early 20th century when "militant leftists battled fascists in the street of Germany, Italy and Spain," The Atlantic reports.

Whether Trump is right or not may be a moot point. Business Insider's outlook on his statement is bleak.

"In invoking the alt-left, Trump branded those fighting racism and anti-Semitism as equivalent to those perpetrating them," it writes. "And by using the phrase, he delighted white nationalists by bringing their terminology to the mainstream."

Charlottesville: Trump under fire after far-right killing

14 August

Donald Trump has been criticised for failing to condemn white supremacist violence which left one person dead and 19 others injured.

Far-right demonstrators carrying flaming torches and screaming racial epithets clashed with counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, before a car was deliberately driven into the crowd, killing a woman.

The BBC reports that neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members punched and kicked counter-protestors, while pepper spray, "used by both sides, fill[ed] the air".

The unrest erupted in response to plans to remove a statue of Robert E Lee, the Confederate civil war general.

It presented Trump with his first "domestic crisis" says Reuters, "with many on both left and right criticizing him for waiting too long to address it and then, when he did so, failing to explicitly condemn the white-supremacist marchers who ignited the melee".

His wife Melania tweeted a response to the violence almost immediately, but it took the President another 40 minutes to issue a statement from his golf course in New Jersey. He condemned "hatred, bigotry and violence" on "many sides", a phrase he repeated many times.

Both the timing and wording of his remarks drew criticism not just from Democrats but also from many in his party.

Republican senator Cory Gardner of Colorado tweeted: "Mr President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism."

Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah said: "We should call evil by its name. My brother didn't give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home."

The views were echoed by senior Democrats, including the party's leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, who said in a statement: "The march and rally in Charlottesville goes against everything the American flag stands for." He called on President Trump to "condemn this in the strongest terms immediately".

Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders described the violence as a "provocative effort by Neo-Nazis to foment racism and hatred and create violence".

"Picking a 'worst' from Donald Trump's statement isn't easy," says CNN's editor-at-large Chris Cillizza, "but, the emphasis of 'on many sides' - Trump repeated that phrase twice - is, I think, the low ebb. It's hard to hard to imagine a less presidential statement in a time in which the country looks to its elected leader to stand up against intolerance and hatred."

David Duke - the former head of the Ku Klux Klan who endorsed Trump's candidacy in 2016 - called on the President to go further. "I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror and remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists," he said.

The violence is the latest clash between the far-right and their opponents since Trump took office six months ago. In July, about two dozen people were arrested in Charlottesville when the Ku Klux Klan rallied against the plan to remove the Lee statue.

The BBC reports that four people have been arrested in connection to Saturday's violence, including a 20-year-old man believed to have been the driver of the vehicle. The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into the incident.

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