AS IT HAPPENS

Why Charlottesville Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy won't call Donald Trump president

Charlottesville's vice-mayor described the weekend's white nationalist rallies as "a bunch of cowards with tiki torches from Walmart trying to intimidate people."
Wes Bellamy speaks at a counter-protest in Charlottesville, Va., on Sunday. (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via Associated Press)
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Charlottesville Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy said it's "infuriating" that it took U.S. President Donald Trump three days to denounce the white supremacist groups who participated in violent rallies in his Virginia city over the weekend

At a press conference on Monday, Trump spoke glowingly about the "strong" U.S. economy before turning his attention to the violence in Charlottesville, declaring that "racism is evil."

Trump reacts to violent clashes between white nationalists and counter-demonstrators in Charlottesville, Va., appeals to Americans to love and respect each other 2:10

"This didn't even get its own separate press conference to denounce these groups. But he wanted to make something political about his economic remarks. That's 45 for you," Bellamy said, using a common nickname for Trump, the country's 45th president.

"Until he decides to show the leadership of respecting the highest office of the land, that's when I'll call him President Trump. But to me, he has been a divisive individual since the start of his campaign. He's been an individual who hasn't done nearly anything to bring our country together."

Bellamy was active in counter-protests throughout the weekend and has been speaking out against the rallies that plagued his city and saw three people die. 

He spoke with As It Happens guest host Mike Finnerty‏ on Monday. Here is part of their conversation.​

How are things in Charlottesville today?

Things are getting better. We're having a community conversation tonight.

And how have people been feeling about the way things have evolved in the past few hours?

I think people are encouraged. The thing that I love about our city is that people, even in the midst of adversity, we always take care of each other.  

These individuals do not scare us, nor do they intimidate us.- Wes Bellamy , Charlottesville vice-mayor 

I think about what was going on on Saturday, even while all of the melee was taking place, there was a community giveaway with a group of young brothers who gave away about 150-200 book bags and school supplies. So, I mean, I think that represents Charlottesville.

We will move forward from this. We will move on. We will become even stronger. And even as I'm losing my voice, we will continue to fight.

You witnessed the first white supremacist march on Friday night. Could you describe what that was like?

It was just a bunch of cowards with tiki torches from Walmart trying to intimidate a bunch people outside of a church and then decided to walk over to a college and surround a bunch of college students. These people are cowards. 

These individuals do not scare us, nor do they intimidate us. Again, we will be stronger. Even when we fall, even in our darkest moments, we arise and we will be taller because of this.

The city tried to get that rally stopped ... and were overruled. ... What did you think of that?

I wish that it was not allowed to happen.

The judge ruled that they had a right to free speech.

That's what they said.

And do you think they do?

Free speech is one thing. Hate speech is something else.

Charlottesville vice-mayor Wes Bellamy says a violent 'Unite the Right' rally organized by white nationalists was more than just about a statue. (Matt Kwong/CBC)

The organizers of the rally chose Charlottesville because of your city council's stand to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee...

No, they did not.

This isn't about a statue; this is about white supremacy. And they believe that there's an African-American vice-mayor who, as they stated, is getting too big for his britches. We have a Jewish mayor who they also dislike. We have a female city councilwoman, Kristin Szakos, who they have tried to say every violent, nasty thing that you can think of.

They believe that because we are pushing for equity, and we are pushing very hard ... they feel as if they're being "infringed" upon. And that is what this is about. Do not allow them to hide their hate behind the statue.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more, listen to our conversation with Wes Bellamy.