In his weekly radio address, Gov. Paul LePage appeared to pin the blame for the death of a young woman during the racist rally in Charlottesville on those who showed up to protest the white supremacist gathering.
After condemning the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and racists who targeted the university city in Virginia for its plan to move a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, LePage also blasted “leftists” and “anti-fascists” for opposing them.
“It’s admirable to take a stand against hatred and intolerance. But showing up with sticks and clubs and black masks is an invitation for violence,” the governor said.
He then claimed “the so-called anti-fascists went to Charlottesville looking for a confrontation. It cost the lives of a young woman and two dedicated police officers.”
A neo-Nazi from Ohio is charged with second-degree murder after ramming a crowd of counter-demonstrators with his car. One victim, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, died and many others were badly injured.
Two state police officers perished when the helicopter they used to monitor the rally crashed nearby, apparently because of a mechanical failure.
There is no evidence that the “anti-fascists” or any of the others protesting the neo-Nazi gathering had anything to do with the deaths of the three.
LePage said there’s no excuse for violence from any side.
“The violent behavior in Charlottesville was more than despicable — it was deadly, causing the deaths of three people and injuries to many more,” he said.
He said the KKK and its ilk have “no place in our country” and reminded listeners that during the 1920s, the racist organization had as many as 40,000 members in Maine.
“They came after Franco-Americans because they hated Catholics. They hated my family,” the Lewiston native said.
“As a Franco-American, I know the lasting and devastating effects this kind of hatred and discrimination can have on people,” LePage said.
But after castigating racists in the recorded broadcast, he added that “both sides are wrong” in the current climate.
He said the people he called anti-fascists are using techniques “right out the fascist playbook.”
“They deprive the First Amendment rights of people who disagree with them. They use hate speech against the people they accuse of hatred,” the governor said.
“They prevent people with different viewpoints from speaking at colleges. They physically attack supporters of politicians they don’t like,” he said.
LePage said the media “is right to condemn neo-Nazis, white supremacists and the KKK. But they also vilify politicians who don’t comment on tragic events that happened in other states. They claim such silence is consent, and they draw the ridiculous conclusion that these politicians must support neo-Nazis.”
“However, the media itself is guilty of remaining silent. They don’t condemn or expose the dangerous thugs who are using classic fascist techniques. They are fanning the flames of this firestorm,” he insisted.
LePage said that Heyer was protesting peacefully against the white supremacists when she was killed.
“Our hearts go out to Heather’s family, as well as the families of the police officers who were killed and the people who were injured,” LePage said.