US President Donald Trump says he condemns “all types of racism and acts of violence,” appealing for unity ahead of the anniversary of a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division,” Trump posted on Twitter on Saturday morning. “We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!”
His tweet came as police blocked off streets and mobilised hundreds of officers for the anniversary. The security measures alarmed activists but reassured others who said they have painful memories of last year’s chaos.
Local and state authorities framed the weekend’s heightened security as a necessary precaution.
Late on Saturday morning, when many businesses in a popular downtown shopping district were beginning to open, law enforcement officers outnumbered visitors. Concrete barriers and metal fences had been erected, and police were searching bags at two checkpoints where people could enter or leave.
Nearby, dozens of officers carrying helmets and with gas masks strapped to their belts stood watch in the park where hundreds of white nationalists gathered last summer at a rally planned in part to protest the city’s plans to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee. The event descended into violence, with clashes erupting between attendees and counterprotesters.