This week’s responses by President Donald J. Trump regarding the conflict between white supremacists, neo-Nazis and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Va. – in which he blamed both sides for the violence there last weekend – elicited strong feelings from politicians and political observers on both sides of the aisle.

“I think he made a terrible mistake,” Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, told reporters in Annapolis on Wednesday.

Jmore recently gathered comments and responses from statewide and local political leaders about their views on the president’s remarks and the violent events in Charlottesville, which left a counter-protester and two Virginia State Troopers dead.

Gov. Larry Hogan

Gov. Larry Hogan

“The First Lady and I are heartbroken over the deaths of two Virginia State Troopers and the innocent bystander, and all those injured as a result of the violence in Charlottesville. … Hate and bigotry only lead to violence and death, and there is no place for it our society. Violence, hate and bigotry all of kinds must be confronted and condemned. The disgusting and vile acts taking place in Charlottesville have absolutely no place in our society and must be stopped.

“We will continue to confront and condemn hatred, bigotry and violence. … American values have nothing to do with white supremacy and hate, and Maryland will continue to stand in strong opposition to those who use it for personal or political gain.

“The time has come to make clear the difference between properly acknowledging our past and glorifying the darkest chapters of our history.”

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.)

Senator Ben Cardin

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin

“It is difficult to describe the most recent display that the country and the world witnessed from the president of the United States. … Rather than using this moment to bring our country together, he used his bully pulpit to act like the worst form of a bully, equating white supremacists, the KKK and neo-Nazis with protesters who were defending America against hate, bigotry, anti-Semitism, homophobia, misogyny and xenophobia. His empathy for white supremacists has obliterated any semblance of moral leadership that Americans expect from their president.

“Despite President Trump, we the people must continue to turn to each other for strength and progress, healing and compassion. We must continue to be bold and fearless in our own reactions to racist and anti-Semitic demonstrations. White supremacism and racism are repugnant and fundamentally against the values we hold dear as a civilized society. There is a right side and a wrong side to this issue. There are no ‘all sides.’ The hatemongers will not tear our country apart. I am confident that what is good and just in America is stronger and will prevail.”



Sen. Christopher Van Hollen (D-Md.)

Sen. Christopher Van Hollen

“It is a sad day for our country when the words of the president of the United States are greeted with cheers by David Duke, the KKK, white supremacists and neo-Nazis. This is a moment when every American patriot needs to stand up for the values we hold dear and reject division, racism, and hate.

“We must confront the reality that statues to Confederate generals glorify those who led the fight to protect slavery. It is appropriate for them to be displayed in museums or in proper historical context, but they should not be celebrated on pedestals in our public squares. This is not a question of erasing our history; it is part of learning from our history.”

Sen. Robert A. “Bobby” Zirkin (D-11th)

Sen. Robert A. “Bobby” Zirkin

Sen. Robert A. “Bobby” Zirkin (Photo by Jim Burger)

“It’s horrifying in 2017 that this is a question that has to be asked.  Many of my ancestors came from Eastern Europe, and many were killed in World War II.  Nazism is evil personified. You defeat Nazism.

“Someone like from the president of the U.S. all the way to every citizen should say that. Stamp out Nazism. Stamp it out. When the president of the U.S. gives cover to those folks, those comments were outrageous. KKK members are ecstatic with what he said.

“It’s important that we respect the First Amendment, but there is no right to incite violence. The neo-Nazis in Charlottesville were there to incite violence.

“I’m a state legislator. My job is to pass laws, work together with others. Get people to work together. And from a legislative standpoint, we must take a look at the laws on hate crimes we have in the books. While there’s no five-point program, there is a first step. And step one is to condemn anti-Semitism, condemn racism. You call them out. Post their names and where they work.

“Everyone — and I mean everyone — needs to roundly condemn these folks. The whole world saw scenes reminiscent of Nazi Germany. The president should have condemned these folks, but he didn’t. He tried to make a moral equivalency.

“As I wrote on my Facebook page, ‘It is way past time for all of us – Democrats, Republicans, Independents – to condemn this man and the shame he has brought to the Office of the President.’ Enabling Donald Trump and not condemning him makes you part of the problem. What do we do about the president? The sooner he’s not there, the sooner healing can start.

“But how do you defeat hate? How do you stamp out evil? How do you change someone who holds racist views? These are the most challenging questions.”

Sen. James Brochin (D-42nd)

Sen. James Brochin

“Local law enforcement in Maryland should continue to work with the U.S. Attorney to identify any hate groups and be vigilant in identifying any of their activities that break the law. In addition, identifying members of hate groups and publishing their faces and their employment on a local website is imperative. If they’re comfortable with engaging in demonstrations that spread fear and hatred, then they should have no problem if their employers know about these activities.”



Del. Shelly L. Hettleman (D-11th)

There were not ‘many sides’ to what happened in Charlottesville and there is no moral equivalency here. There was right and wrong. There were people who marched in the streets, holding torches, who chanted slogans that harken back to Nazi Germany (‘blood and soil’) and who yelled racist and anti-Semitic mantras. There were peaceful counter-protesters. And then there was a man who drove a speeding car into a crowd and killed a young woman who was peacefully protesting and injured many others. And this man was applauded by the alt-right leaders.

Del. Shelly L. Hettleman

“I am incredibly disappointed in the failure of President Trump to call the alt-right rally in Charlottesville what it was: a rally of racists. We look to our president to be our moral leader, to comfort this nation when we face tragedy, and to articulate our national values. He has failed on all accounts.

“Here in Maryland, as elsewhere, there are a number of things we can do: educate, engage, and call racism out when we see it. We need to make sure that we educate young people about our nation’s history — the good, the bad, and the ugly. We need to interact with one another — there is little doubt that our communities and neighborhoods are segregated and there are historical reasons for that separation. We need to understand how this came to be and to enact policies that will address these issues and expand access to quality educational, economic and housing opportunities for all.

“And finally, we need to engage with one another, to learn about our collective, as well as different experiences and to be witnesses to racism and call it out by name when we see it. Since it seems as though we cannot look to our president for this type of moral leadership, we need to do it ourselves, by looking out for one another, learning from one another, and standing up for one another. It’s only through shining a light on these issues that we will come together and continue moving our nation forward.”

Del. Dana M. Stein (D-11th)

Del. Dana M. Stein

“Government and private sector leaders need to make clear that the racist and anti-Semitic ideology of neo-Nazis, racists and white supremacists is abhorrent and contrary to everything that America stands for. Cities and states should continue to take down Confederate statues and other symbols that these groups rally to. By doing so, we make clear that we reject the ideology of these groups, and we affirm history’s lesson that the Confederacy had a noxious purpose — the perpetuation of slavery.

“Large, peaceful protests in Washington, D.C., Baltimore and other cities should be organized.  They would show President Trump that his equivalency of racist and anti-racist groups is false, shameful and wrong.”




Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz

“Like the vast majority of Americans, I am appalled by the horrific acts of terrorism in Charlottesville and by President Trump’s statements excusing white supremacists. In Maryland and across the nation, we need to stand together to eliminate the relics of racial division. People and institutions need to respond decisively when confronted with hate by working to protect the rights of all people against discrimination.

“In Baltimore County, we are strengthening our engagement with minority and disenfranchised communities and have committed to policies and practices that protect and affirm constitutional rights and expand opportunities for all.  Hate-related incidents and racial discrimination have no place in our society.”

Howard County Council Chair Jon Weinstein

Howard County Council Chair Jon Weinstein

“It’s a question I can’t believe I’m answering. Federal and state law enforcement and legal entities must identify these groups and the individual members who are promoting violence or inciting violence. Go after them to the fullest extent of the law. We must prevent them from doing what they did in Charlottesville.

“As we would do with terrorist cells within the United States, there needs to be a more diligent approach to identifying, monitoring and thwarting their attempts at violence in promotion of their evil message. We should do whatever is possible to get these people to go back to the swamp they came from.

“The president may not have created these people, but he has unleashed them, he has given them
license, he has emboldened them. As a Jew, I am appalled, saddened, depressed. The president doesn’t seem to care, he doesn’t seem to be alarmed. Anybody with eyes that watched the violence in Charlottesville can tell there was only one side promoting violence: the anti-Semites, the white supremacists, the racists. The president has done a huge disservice to our country. What every citizen can do is to be vocal, communicating with friends and neighbors, then most importantly, showing up to vote out anybody who doesn’t actively condemn the actions of these groups and does not hold the president accountable for enabling these groups.”

Peter Arnold is an Olney, Md.-based freelance writer.

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