Nonetheless, scores of far-right marchers and counterprotesters turned out and ended up brawling in the streets, with more minor injuries on both sides. Up to that point, the event was not unlike other far-right events in the United States that end up in fisticuffs with counterprotesters.
But then the unthinkable happened. An American neo-Nazi drove his car deliberately into protesters, according to officials, killing one person, critically injuring five more, and further injuring fourteen others. A police helicopter monitoring the event crashed shortly thereafter, killing both officers aboard.
When called upon to remark about the tragedy, Donald Trump gave a wishy-washy response. He refused to specifically condemn the white supremacists and instead lamented "hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides."
Who else mowed down people with a car other than a white supremacist and Nazi sympathizer? Answer: no one.
Later, at a press event, where Trump was supposed to speak with the media, when he was specifically asked why he does not and has never denounced white supremacists, he ignored the inquiry and cowardly left the room without answering any questions (video here).
Finally, the next day, an administration spokesperson -- but not Trump -- released an overly broad statement that mentioned white supremacists, KKK, Nazis, and "all extremist groups." As The Washington Post noted (link here), "The White House’s clarification stopped far short of what a growing number of Republicans have urged the president to do: directly call out and condemn white supremacy."
Indeed, Trump's cowardice on this issue has been widely condemned by both Democrats and Republicans. Former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson blasted the President in an op-ed (link here) titled "Trump babbles in the face of tragedy." He noted how, unlike all previous Presidents, Trump is incapable of speaking to the nation with resolve at unsettled times.
Editor and journalist Josh Marshall was blunt in his assessment of why Trump is so reluctant to speak out against racists united by hate in a biting editorial (link here) titled "He’s One of Them." Marshall notes how Trump's initial comments not only failed to condemn the haters but actually subtly showed support for them when he said we should all "cherish our history" -- remember, the original protest was about removal of the Robert E. Lee statue.
It's painfully clear why Trump refuses to openly and loudly condemn white supremacists: many if not most of the movement's members support his presidency and actively campaigned for him. For that very reason, far-right neo-Nazi websites praised Trump for his comments following the tragedy (details here).
And the Trump/white-supremacy bond was plainly visible at the event itself -- some of the marchers actually wore red Trump campaign hats (example here).
Trump can quickly take to Twitter to bitch and moan about Rosie O'Donnell, but he's so hesitant to reject the white supremacists who support him.