The leader of the country's biggest civil-rights group said that more racial violence, like the kind seen in Charlottesville, is likely because President Trump has "created an atmosphere" that emboldens white supremacists.
"There will be many Charlottesvilles," said Derrick Johnson, the interim president of the NAACP in a speech to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. He was referring to the violent rally by white nationalists in Virginia this month, where a woman was killed when a neo-Nazi rammed a crowd of anti-racism demonstrators with a car.
After the events — which began with white nationalists demonstrating against the removal of a Confederate statue — President Trump drew widespread condemnation for defending the hate groups, causing their leaders to claim him as a supporter on social media.
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“We are in trying times,” said Johnson. “Unfortunately, this administration has created a climate where … [hate groups] feel comfortable to walk in public without the hoods anymore.”
Since then, Trump has stirred the pot further by criticizing those who call for Confederate statues to be removed, equating Confederate leaders to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
Johnson said he supported the movement to remove the statues and that they should not be financed by taxpayers. “We believe people have the right to have monuments, but it should not be financed by public dollars on public display,” said Johnson. “It’s OK to relocate them in a museum or a cemetery. I prefer cemetery.”
In his remarks, Johnson also noted that the NAACP's travel advisory warning African-Americans to exercise "extreme caution" when visiting Missouri remains in effect. The advisory was set after the state legislature made it more difficult for minorities to win employment or housing-discrimination lawsuits. Business leaders have complained that the advisory is hurting the state's economy.
“We’re not telling people not to go” to Missouri, said Johnson, but that “you travel at heightened risk.”