Trump compares US pro-Palestine protests to 2017 white nationalist rally

Trump compares US pro-Palestine protests to 2017 white nationalist rally
Donald Trump condemned pro-Palestine protests sweeping US colleges, saying the level of "hate" on display was far worse than deadly 2017 Charlottesville rally
3 min read
Former US President Donald Trump appears in court during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 26 [Getty]

Donald Trump on Thursday criticized the peaceful protests on US college campuses over Israel's war in Gaza, describing them as "tremendous hate," while saying that the violence at a white nationalist rally in Virginia when he was president was by comparison "a little peanut."

Trump, the Republican candidate for president in the November elections, also sought to place blame for the campus protests on Democratic President Joe Biden.

In remarks to media following the day's testimony in his criminal trial in New York City, Trump referenced the violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 between white nationalists and counter-protesters, in which one woman was killed, and claimed the current college protests over Israel were far worse.

"Charlottesville was a little peanut. And it was nothing compared to -- and the hate wasn't the kind of hate that you have here," Trump said, repeating an assertion he made on his social media platform on Wednesday.

President Biden's reelection campaign responded to Trump's comments Thursday by posting video footage from the Charlottesville rally, showing torch-wielding "neo-Nazis and KKK members" chanting "Jews will not replace us!"

Trump drew strong criticism in the days after the Charlottesville rally for equating white supremacists with counter-protesters and saying "both sides" were to blame. A woman was run down by a car and killed during the clashes, and Trump's response developed into a crisis for his administration.

The protests by students opposed to Israel's war in Gaza have escalated at universities across the United States in recent days, although they have been largely peaceful, with no known deaths and none of violent clashes between demonstrators seen in Charlottesville.

University authorities have attempted to clear many of the protest encampments, saying they are often unauthorized and calling in police. About 500 demonstrators have been arrested in the past week.

Some Republicans in Congress have accused university administrators of allowing Jewish students to be harassed during the protests, but activist groups have strongly denied that the protests are antisemitic.

While they have acknowledged that hateful rhetoric has at times been directed at Jewish students, they insist that people who tried to infiltrate and malign their movement are responsible for any harassment.

Trump on Thursday also took aim at Biden over the campus protests, barely more than six months before the November presidential election when the two are expected to face a rematch.

"This is tremendous hate and we have a man that can't talk about it because he doesn't understand it. He doesn't understand what's going on with our country," Trump said.

Biden has often told the story of how he came out of retirement to run for president in 2020 after Trump refused to clearly denounce the rally at Charlottesville.

During their first debate, in September of that year, Trump infuriated many Americans by once again declining to denounce white supremacist groups.

Instead, speaking out to the right-wing nationalist group called the Proud Boys, he told them to "stand back and stand by."

The group celebrated its mention by the president by adopting those words as part of a new logo -- underscoring fears that white supremacists were taking tacit encouragement from Trump's failure to unequivocally condemn their ideology.

Two days later, under pressure to explain himself, Trump said he did in fact condemn all white supremacists.

Trump is currently on trial in New York for allegedly falsifying business records related to a payment to a porn star to keep her silent about an affair prior to the 2016 election. Trump has denied wrongdoing.