- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 4, 2018

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said he stands by President Trump’s controversial comments about “both sides” involved in last summer’s violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, The Hill reported Friday.

Recalling Mr. Trump’s comments as the rally’s first anniversary approaches, Mr. Bannon said the president was drawing an equivalence between “Unite the Right” participants and counterprotesters when he sparked outrage by referring to “some very fine people on both sides,” The Hill reported.

“I still support what he said,” Mr. Bannon reportedly said in an interview. “Antifa is just as bad, if not worse, than the quote-unquote fascists that they try to stop.”

Billed as a rally held in support of a Confederate statue slated for removal, “Unite the Right” descended into chaos after clashes broke out on the morning of the event between participants and opposing demonstrators, ultimately culminating in the death of a counterprotester and two Virginia state officers.

The rally was organized by a local white civil rights activist, Jason Kessler, and widely attended by members of various far-right groups, including white nationalists, neo-Nazis and individuals associated with the so-called “alt-right,” causing outrage after the president suggested in its aftermath that anti-fascist protesters were equally responsible for the event’s outcome.

“I think there is blame on both sides,” Mr. Trump said four days after the rally. “You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say it, but I will say it right now.”

Mr. Trump’s residence is slated to serve as the backdrop to a “white civil rights” rally scheduled for next Sunday, Aug. 12, at Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C. The event is being organized by Mr. Kessler, 34, and falls on the first anniversary of last year’s riots.

“I have confidence that law enforcement is doing everything they can to protect public safety surrounding the demonstration,” Mr. Kessler said Saturday.

Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old legal assistant, died after a car rammed into a crowd of counterprotesters on the afternoon of last summer’s rally, injuring several others. The vehicle’s driver, James Alex Fields, has been charged with Heyer’s murder and multiple hate crimes, among other counts. Mr. Fields, 21, has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

Virginia State Police Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates were killed in a helicopter crash while monitoring last summer’s event.

Mr. Bannon, 64, served as the president’s senior counsel and chief strategist until last summer when he left the administration less than a week after “Unite the Right.”

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