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American divide reaches boiling point under Trump

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The divide in America existed long before Trump took office, but he’s the one who will have to deal with the aftermath of the largest gathering of white nationalists in a decade, which resulted in clashes and a car attack called an “act of terrorism.” In recent years, America has witnessed the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which started in Ferguson, Missouri after an unarmed black teen was shot by a white police officer. Occupy Wall Street, which began in New York City in 2011, also transformed into a nationwide mass protest movement, with the aim of drawing attention to economic injustice and political corruption. Trump’s own inauguration was marked by nationwide protests, revealing deep divisions in the US on a range of issues, such as health care, gun control, immigration, and climate change. This week in Charlottesville, Virginia, the ‘Unite the Right’ rally saw white supremacists clashing with counter-protesters, resulting in at least three deaths. A woman was killed and dozens were injured in a car ramming attack at a counter-protest. Two police officers were also killed as a helicopter monitoring the protests crashed in the woods near Charlottesville. There are deeply conflicting opinions regarding what is taking place with the protest movements and related violence in the country, and who is responsible for it. RT looks at a variety of voices across the political spectrum. US far-right: emboldened or on the defensive? A common idea among the political left is that the election of President Donald Trump and his ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign have “emboldened” far-right groups in the US. This is also seen as a general trend in the Western world, with right-wing parties becoming more prominent than they have been in decades. Author and historian Gerald Horne says “there has been a mushrooming and skyrocketing of the number of white supremacist organizations and incidents spearheaded by white supremacists” since Donald Trump was elected. “When they look across the Atlantic, they see the credible effort by Marine Le Pen and the National Front in France to claim the presidency, they look to Germany and see the rise of the Alternative for Germany party which has ultra-right tendencies to put it mildly, they look at Norway and see the rise of right-wing populists throughout Scandinavia. This is putting wind in the sails of right-wing populists here in the US, who have one of their own, Donald J. Trump, now occupying the Oval Office,” Horne said. Horne believes that “the heart of the Trump electoral base still has hatred for black people,” and that white nationalists in America are now “flexing their muscles.” However, the position of the nationalist groups is clearly not as comfortable as it may sound, with radical left groups such as Antifa staging mass counter-protests and clashing with far-right protesters, whether they identify as ‘neo-Nazi’ or ‘alt-right.’ The right-wing camp believes the clashes are not spontaneous, and that they often stem from well-organized provocations. Earlier this year, anti-fascists clashed with alt-right activists in Berkeley, California in series of violent protests over the planned appearances of high-profile conservative figures like Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter, which were eventually cancelled. Lawyer and filmmaker Mike Cernovich spoke to RT about the wave of protests in the US. “What we saw [in Charlottesville] is a part of a broader trend which actually started in what they call in America the ‘Battle of Berkeley.’ There were some of these alt-right events, they went to a park and then there were left-wing groups called Antifa – antifascists – but really were not distinguishable from Nazis. They got in huge street fights in the middle of Berkeley like nothing I have even seen,” Cernovich said. Many conservatives believe that what started as the left simply venting frustration over Trump’s victory in the presidential election has now grown into a full-fledged political movement aimed at obstructing freedom of speech. Cernovich, who says he is no fan of the nationalists behind the Charlottesville protest, believes that the threat of far-right groups in the US is overblown, and that the corporate media is using them for their own political agenda. “Last night they had a torch night, maybe 500 people showed up, if the American media did not show up and say, ‘hey, we will make you all famous, we will put you on the front page of a newspaper, we will promote you…’ if the counter-demonstrators and Antifa did not show up looking for a fight, you would have had a couple hundred showing up, having a little event, nobody would have noticed, and they would go away,” Cernovich says, arguing that “the media and people like George Soros are feeding this.” Trump’s goal: flirting with nationalists or fighting the establishment? Trump is presumed to be a favorite among far-right voters, and this notion has often been used to associate the 45th US president to racists, bigots, and white supremacists, and to suggest that he is championing their cause. Trump’s stated goals, however, were to “drain the swamp” and fight the current US establishment to improve the life of Americans and revitalize America’s shaky economy. READ MORE: Helping you to #QuestionMore: How RT covered Occupy Wall Street protests from Day One Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer lashed out at Trump following the violent events on Saturday, saying that the president made a “regrettable” choice in his campaign by “courting” nationalist groups and giving them “a reason to come into the light.” “Look at the campaign he ran. Look at the intentional courting… of all these white supremacists, white nationalist groups like that, anti-Semitic groups,” Signer said Sunday on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.’ He then told NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’: “When you dance with the devil, the devil doesn’t change, the devil changes you.” Many Trump supporters believe that this type of labeling is one of the establishment’s ways of discrediting and attacking Trump.