Trump Told White Supremacists to Attack Protesters, So They Did

Donald Trump Rally
Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump at a campaign rally at the Sharonville Convention Center in Cincinnati on July 6. John Sommers II/Getty

President Donald Trump's comments on dealing with protesters are coming back to haunt him after the violence that broke out Saturday at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The clashes between Nazis and counterprotesters left three people dead, including one anti-fascist demonstrator who was killed when a man rammed his car into the group she was with.

The president, whose initial statement about the rally was criticized for failing to mention racism, now finds comments he made about attacking protesters being revisited. Throughout his election campaign, Trump appeared to encourage violence toward anti-Trump protesters who showed up at his rallies, telling crowds of people that protesters should be escorted out more roughly, and offering to pay the legal fees of any of his fans who attacked them.

"If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, OK? Just knock the hell... I promise you I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise," Trump said at an Iowa rally on February 1, 2016.

At another event, Trump suggested police should be more violent with people they removed from his rallies. "You see, in the good old days, law enforcement acted a lot quicker than this," Trump said at a rally in Oklahoma City, The New York Times reported, as security moved toward a protester.

"A lot quicker. In the good old days, they'd rip him out of that seat so fast. But today everyone is so politically correct. Our country is going to hell—we're being politically correct," he added.

His comments are now being recalled in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, with Democratic U.S. Representative Maxine Walters tweeting on Monday: "Don't forget, Trump offered to pay legal fees for those who attacked protesters at his rallies. Will he be making that same offer now?"

She added: "Trump defined himself during campaign. He encouraged violence against protesters at rallies. We should not be surprised. ‪#Charlottesviille"

In a tweet from Vets Against Trump, the group referenced Republican legislation that protects drivers who run over protesters in their car. The so-called common-sense legislation protects drivers "exercising due care" if they hit someone who is protesting and blocking traffic from civil liability; it does not, however, apply to a person who intentionally runs into someone.

"After ‪#Charlottesville, remember that GOP lawmakers across the country have introduced bills to legalize hitting protesters with cars," Vets Against Trump said.

Trump finally denounced the KKK supporters who gathered in Virginia Saturday after nearly three days of officials on the right and left asking him to do so. "Racism is evil," Trump said Monday. "And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans."