Demonstrators gather in downtown L.A. to protest Charlottesville violence

Hundreds of protesters marched peacefully through downtown Los Angeles on Sunday to denounce the white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Va., and to excoriate President Trump.

The demonstrators rallied on the steps of City Hall with speeches condemning racism and xenophobia, then marched through the streets of downtown, chanting: “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA,” “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here,” “Black lives matter,” and other slogans.

Many brandished signs such as “Stop white terrorism,” “Nazi scum,” “White silence = white consent,” and “There is only one side” — a reference to Trump’s widely criticized remarks blaming the violence on “many sides.”

The demonstration came a day after three people were killed and dozens injured around Charlottesville when a rally staged by white nationalists turned violent. The “Unite the Right” rally had been planned as part of a battle over the city’s ordered removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Before the rally could begin, neo-Nazis, white nationalists and other far-right figures began brawling with anti-racism protesters in the streets of the college town. One woman was killed when a driver plowed a sports car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators.

Lydia Avila drove from Pasadena to join Sunday’s protest in downtown L.A., saying she was outraged to see neo-Nazis “come out of hiding and demonstrate on the streets.”

“Trump has given them the courage to come out,” said Avila, 29, who works for a social justice nonprofit. “We need to show that we're not going to put up with this, that as a country we’re going to fight against racism and white supremacy.”

More than a dozen similar events were planned across California.

In Long Beach, a large crowd of people gathered at Harvey Milk Promenade Park for a candlelight vigil to “stand in solidarity” with Charlottesville. In Oakland’s Latham Square, organizers said Sunday night, several hundred showed up for what police called a peaceful demonstration.

“We’re here to say, ‘No, we’re not going to normalize these Nazis and how they feel emboldened,’ ” Michelle Xai, an organizer with Refuse Fascism Los Angeles, said before the rally. “This is history being written, and we’re not going to be those people that just stood back.”

Politicians across the country, including Democrats and Republicans, were quick to denounce the racism and violence. But Trump faced criticism from both parties for televised remarks in which he blamed the violence “on many sides” and did not directly criticize white nationalists, whose leaders have openly supported his presidency.

Trump’s remarks angered many of those who attended the Sunday protest downtown.

Those widely criticized comments were the last straw for Claudine Aguilar, 34, a high school English teacher from the Pico-Union area of Los Angeles who joined the protest, urging Trump to “pick a side.”

“What he didn’t say says everything,” Aguilar said. “By not showing leadership against racism and white supremacy, if he’s not condoning it, at the very least he’s okay with it.”

“It’s disgusting and downright unpresidential,” she added. “When he couldn’t even stand up against this kind of racism, I couldn’t stand by, not on this one.”

Jennifer Scappettone, a University of Chicago professor who attended the downtown L.A. rally, said Trump’s comments seemed tailored to avoid upsetting the far-right part of his base that helped him get elected.

“It was enraging,” said Scappettone, a University of Virginia graduate who lived in Charlottesville for four years. “It was an attempt to neutralize a clear act of white terrorism, to de-historicize it and to distance it from the conditions of his presidency.”

On Saturday night, more than a hundred demonstrators marched in front of Los Angeles Police Department headquarters, chanting, “No justice, no peace” and waving signs that read “Solidarity with Charlottesville,” and “Stop White Terrorists.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti joined officials from across the country in speaking out against the violence.

In a statement, Garcetti said: “Angelenos and people everywhere condemn these acts of hatred, and are deeply saddened by the loss of life and injuries suffered today. We stand with [Charlottesville] Mayor Mike Signer and everyone in his city with hope and prayers for peace to be restored.''

Hundreds of protesters also took to the streets in the Bay Area late Saturday, with some demonstrators in Oakland setting off fireworks and briefly halting traffic on I-580. In Orange County, 150 people rallied against racism in Sasscer Park in Santa Ana, organizers said.

In El Cajon in San Diego County, about 70 people also held a candlelight vigil Saturday night to show solidarity against the violence.

One speaker called images from Charlottesville “horrifying.” Video footage from the scene showed the driver of a Dodge Challenger plowing into a crowd of counter-protesters, then backing rapidly away, hitting more people.

Monty Kroopkin spoke at the El Cajon gathering about the extremists in Charlottesville, calling them fascists and neo-Nazis. “We’ve seen this before, in the ’20s in Italy and in the ’30s in Germany,” Kroopkin said.

He said he hoped the nighttime vigil would show that “there’s more of us than there are of them.”

tony.barboza@latimes.com

Pauline Repard of the San Diego Union-Tribune contributed to this report.

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UPDATES:

11:15 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details on protests in Long Beach and Oakland.

5:45 p.m.: This story was updated with an interview with a protester regarding Trump’s comments.

4:15 p.m.: This story was updated with additional information about the protesters.

2:40 p.m.: This story was updated to include new information about the demonstration.

This story was originally posted at 11:05 a.m.

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