UN racism body gives US ‘early warning’ after Charlottesville
Trump threatens government shutdown over Mexican wall funding in fiery speech
US president Donald Trump looks to his VIP section during his speech in Phoenix, Arizona. Photograph: Roy Dabner/EPA
A UN committee charged with tackling racism has issued an “early warning” over conditions in the US and urged the Trump administration to “unequivocally and unconditionally” reject discrimination.
The warning specifically refers to events last week in Charlottesville, Virginia, where civil rights activist Heather Heyer was killed when a car rammed into a group of people protesting against a white nationalist rally.
Such statements are usually issued by the United Nations committee on the elimination of racial discrimination (Cerd) over fears of ethnic or religious conflict. In the past decade, the only other countries issued with an early warning were Burundi, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Kyrgyzstan and Nigeria.
“We are alarmed by the racist demonstrations, with overtly racist slogans, chants and salutes by white nationalists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, promoting white supremacy and inciting racial discrimination and hatred,” said Anastasia Crickley, chairwoman of the committee.
President Donald Trump faced widespread criticism after he blamed “both sides” for the carnage in Charlottesville. Although the Cerd statement did not refer to him by name, it called on “the government of the United States of America, as well as high-level politicians and public officials, to unequivocally and unconditionally reject and condemn racist hate speech and crimes in Charlottesville and throughout the country”.
Ms Crickley had also urged the US authorities “to address the root causes of the proliferation of such racist manifestations”.
Mr Trump used Tuesday’s event to portray himself as the victim of events in Charlottesville, branding journalists who “do not like our country” as the true source of division in the US. He also accused the “crooked media” of “trying to take away our history and our heritage” and read out previous statements that he said condemned hatred, bigotry and violence.
Police said they used pepper spray to disperse protesters outside the rally – who numbered in their thousands, according to Arizona media – after being pelted with rocks and bottles.
The Phoenix police chief, Jeri Williams, told reporters four people were arrested, including three on assault charges.
In his speech on Tuesday night, Mr Trump also promised to shut down the government if necessary to build a wall along the border with Mexico.
Funding for the border wall has flagged in the US Congress as many lawmakers question whether Mr Trump’s main campaign promise is really necessary.
But with a budget battle looming, Mr Trump said he would be willing to risk a politically damaging government shutdown in order to secure funding for the wall.
He visited the border region in Yuma, Arizona, earlier on Tuesday.
“If we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall,” Mr Trump said. “We’re going to have our wall. The American people voted for immigration control. We’re going to get that wall.”