© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Incident In Charlottesville Will Make Us Stronger, Gov. McAuliffe Says


Now, of course, President Trump faced a lot of criticism for not directly condemning the white supremacist groups in Charlottesville. He blamed hatred, quote, "on many sides." Vice President Mike Pence had a message yesterday for the president's critics.


VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: I will say, I take issue with the fact that many in the national media spend more time criticizing the president's words than they did criticizing those who perpetrated the violence to begin with.

GREEN: OK, let's bring another voice in here. It is the governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, who's on the line.

Governor, good morning.

TERRY MCAULIFFE: David, good morning.

GREEN: I know you talked to the president over the weekend. And he is facing, as we just said, all of this criticism about how he responded to this - not directly blaming these white supremacist groups. Did you bring that up to him?

MCAULIFFE: Oh, I did. I spoke to him before I had gone down, and I spoke to him Saturday afternoon. And I made it clear twice on the call. I said, Mr. President, there's entirely too much hate-filled speech, too - horrible rhetoric. It's causing problems in our country. There's too much bigotry. And I said it to the president twice. And at the end of the call, I reiterated and said, Mr. President, let's you and I work together.

And I spent all day yesterday - I visited the Mount Zion and First Baptist churches and spoke all day. Elected officials need to come out, No. 1, and condemn. Call it for what it is. These were white supremacists. They were neo-Nazi. They came into our beautiful state, our beautiful city, with their hate and their bigotry. And I told them to get out. They're not, you know, they're not wanted here. But let's be honest, Dave, they're not wanted anywhere in America. These are not...

GREEN: Well, where...

MCAULIFFE: Yes, sir.

GREEN: I wonder where this resurgence is coming from, in your mind. You've been involved in politics for a long time, and watched different moments and different movements.

MCAULIFFE: And it's a great question. And I do believe that the rhetoric that we have seen - these people felt emboldened, that they could come - and David, you should've heard the language in what these people said on the streets - yelling at the African-American community, yelling at members of the Jewish faith. I've just did my - you know, I've been - you're right, I've been doing this a long time - 40 years. I, never in my life, have seen such vicious, mean-spirited hatred.

And that's why I said, get the heck out of here. I don't know who these people are. I mean, I don't even know what they mean by white supremacy. I don't know why you would be a neo-Nazi today. You know, what we know about the Nazis - for one, we know that they, you know, eliminated 6 million members of the Jewish faith. And why are you marching up and down streets?

So, you know, it's - I think the rhetoric that's gone on - and it starts at the top. And I said yesterday, from the White House, to the statehouse to the mayor's office, all of us, today, need to come out and condemn it. Call it for what it is. Let's get a real realization of how we got to this point in American history. And then let's work together to fix it. This is an opportunity. These folks who came in are disgusting human beings.

And I'll tell you this, they made us stronger here in Virginia. I'm convening my whole cabinet today. We're going to take the lead in reconciliation efforts. They made us stronger. But unfortunate...

GREEN: Well, in terms of, if I may, if - in terms of what you're going to do next...


GREEN: I mean, there is talk of more of these kinds of rallies in Charlottesville. There's talk of a protest planned around a monument to Robert E. Lee in Richmond next month. I want to bring up something that I read from Jamelle Bouie. He's the chief political correspondent for Slate. He said compared with protests in places like Ferguson, Mo., where largely peaceful protesters were met with snipers, armored vehicles and riot police, the response in Charlottesville was tame - armed white supremacists facing restrained and measured law enforcement. Did state and local police do enough?

MCAULIFFE: Oh, they did. And first of all, the rally was supposed to start at 12. They moved in at little after 11 o'clock. And the park was cleared by 11 o'clock - by 11:30. They were there. Now, they had to be very careful. We had been planning for this for a while. We had to show tremendous restraint because we knew. We had a lot of intelligence.

These people all camed (ph) armed. David, I've never seen so many weapons. These people were wearing better gear than my own state police were wearing. They had body armor, helmets. They were all - I mean, people were walking around with semiautomatic rifles through the streets. So the key point...

GREEN: Well, does that mean that your police officers should've shown less restraint, if you were dealing with armed and dangerous people?

MCAULIFFE: Well, let's be very clear. Let's think about where we are today - not one ounce of property damage, not one person went to the hospital outside of the car incident - which, David, you can't protect against that. I mean, but not one person went to the hospital from the rally, not one ounce of property damage - and not one single gunshot was fired.

So I will tell you this. The Charlottesville police were in charge. They did a magnificent job. Our state police and guard backed them up. But listen - not a shot fired. And we were worried. And with a thousand people with very, you know - it was a powder keg in there - high tensions. One person fired one shot - it would've been melee. And I would be talking to you today, David, with a lot of body bags that I'm trying to figure out what do we do next. That - none of that happened.

And think of this, not one window was shattered, not one ounce of property damage, not one shot fired, and not one person went to the hospital, except for the 20 - the 19 who were hit by a car terrorist, which, you know, you can't - you know, there's no preparation's going to prepare for some nut, some murderer, who's going to turn his car into a weapon and run through a crowd.

GREEN: All right.

MCAULIFFE: I will tell you this, though, David. We asked - the city of Charlottesville asked for that to be moved out of downtown Charlottesville to a park about a mile and a half away - a lot of open fields. That was the place that it should've been. We were, unfortunately, sued by the ACLU. And the judge ruled against us.

That rally should not have been in the middle of downtown - to disperse all those people from the park where they dispersed all over the city streets. And it became a powder keg. And we got to look at these permits, and we got to look at where we put these rallies and protesters. I got to protect public safety. And our police did a magnificent job.

GREEN: Well, I - it makes me wonder if you're going to do anything differently. Have you learned anything from what happened in Charlottesville if this is going to be planned again, coming up in the next month, in the city of Richmond?

MCAULIFFE: Well, I'll - and I'll tell you this. I mean, the city of Charlottesville, one, wanted to move it, which was the smart decision. No. 2, they tried to ban any sticks and poles, which were used as weapons on Saturday. These were all denied. So I did talk to my attorney general yesterday. We've got to get a better understanding and - with these judges - to understand our job is to keep our community safe.

I'm all for free speech - peaceful free speech. But to put all these people with all these weapons who came in from out of state - and they came in here, David, to hurt people. We know the intelligence. We know what was being said in social media. They came here to hurt people, and they came with guns. We need to...

GREEN: You learned some lessons from Charlottesville, it sounds like.

MCAULIFFE: The lessons I learned is we've got to do a better job of working with the judiciary. They need to listen to the local city officials about where these permits are allowed to allow people to come into your city with guns. Our job is to protect it. And we - the judiciary needs to do a better job of working with us.

GREEN: Governor, I have just a few seconds left. I...

MCAULIFFE: I'm angry that - I am angry that this was not moved to McIntire Park, where the city of Charlottesville had requested. I am very angry today because these people, they were dispersed, and that allowed this guy with the car to run through downtown Charlottesville with people everywhere.

GREEN: So you're ready to be directly involved in where these kinds of protests will happen in the future.


GREEN: All right, we're speaking there with the governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, who joined us on the line from Skype, again reacting to the violence that we saw yesterday in Charlottesville. And we're going to be spending a lot of time this morning talking about reaction to those events. Governor, thanks for the time. We're know you're very busy right now. We appreciate it.

MCAULIFFE: Thank you, David. You bet, all right.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.