US Senator Ron Johnson described Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville as “horrific” and “evil” in a radio interview with WISN-AM’s Dan O’Donnell on Monday.
“I think everybody should renounce and denounce Neo-Nazi groups, white supremacists,” Johnson said. “There is no room for this kind of hate-violence in this country.”
A group of Neo-Nazis, white supremacists and “alt-Right” assorted racists attempted to hold a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville but the event was shut down due to violence between the event-goers and counter-demonstrators. According to The Daily Progress, the newspaper in Charlottesville, both sides were prepared for the violent confrontation that overwhelmed efforts by local and state police to keep them separated.
A state of emergency was declared and the rally permit was cancelled before the rally itself could take place. Afterwards, one of the attendees of the “Unite the Right” rally allegedly intentionally drove his vehicle into the crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing one person and injuring 19 others, in what has been described as an act of terrorism. The incident is similar to other terror attacks involving vehicles being used to attack crowds. The suspect, James Field Jr. of Ohio, is currently being held without bail.
In response to a question from O’Donnell about leftwing political violence and the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise, R-LA, in Alexandria, Virginia, Johnson said the political violence is on the fringes of both sides of the political spectrum.
“Unfortunately there are a number of fringe groups,” Johnson said. “All kinds of hate. All kinds of evil. And I appreciate Vice President Pence’s statement here this morning. Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions came out strongly saying we will prosecute and investigate to the full extent of the law.”
O’Donnell asked Johnson whether he thought the criticisms of President Donald Trump, including whether the president encouraged the racist groups in Charlottesville, contributed to the violent extremism. Johnson said that he wished the country would focus more on what unites us rather than divides us.
“The vast majority of Americans want a safe, prosperous and secure country,” Johnson said. “We share those same goals. I wish as a society we were concentrating and doing everything we can to unify this nation as opposed to divide us.”
“I think there’s been a considered effort to sabotage this administration from day one,” Johnson said. “That’s unfortunate. We have enormous challenges. Dan, I concentrate on the problem areas and try to stay as focused as possible. But it’s difficult with all these depressing events occurring around us.”
Johnson said he took Trump’s original comments on the Charlottesville violence as denouncing violent extremism on all sides. “There is probably nothing you can say that would satisfy everybody,” Johnson said. “I’ll let other pundits weigh in on that.”
Johnson then repeated his support for the statements from Pence and Sessions.
“And from my own standpoint, I’m only responsible for my own words, I completely renounce Neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups – and any, any violent extremists,” Johnson said.