By Tom Dare
A VIDEO showing the notoriously hard-nosed former U.S. President Ronald Reagan condemning racist groups in a speech back in 1981 has resurfaced this week in the wake of the tragic events in Charlottesville.
The video, taken during a Reagan speech at the annual conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), shows the former Republican President criticising groups who “still adhere to senseless racism and religious prejudice,” before going on to promise that his administration would take action against such groups.
“A few isolated groups in the backwater of American life still hold perverted notions of what America is all about,” he says, in a speech which made references to a situation chillingly similar to the one in America today.
“Recently in some places in the nation there’s been a disturbing reoccurrence of bigotry and violence.
“If I may, from the platform of this organization, known for its tolerance, I would like to address a few remarks to those groups who still adhere to senseless racism and religious prejudice, to those individuals who persist in such hateful behavior.
“If I were speaking to them instead of to you, I would say to them, ‘You are the ones who are out of step with our society. You are the ones who willfully violate the meaning of the dream that is America. And this country, because of what it stands for, will not stand for your conduct.’
“My administration will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who, by violence or intimidation, would attempt to deny Americans their constitutional rights.”
The comments are in stark contrast to those made by current American President Donald Trump, who has been heavily criticised for his response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend.
Several white supremacist groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, marched in the city on Saturday to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Civil War general Robert E. Lee from the city centre.
But violence quickly broke out after the crowd, believed to include hundreds of people, met with a group of anti-racism protesters. Clashes saw metal poles and baseball bats used, with one member of the white supremacist group driving his car at full speed into a group of anti-racism protesters, killing one woman and injuring 19 others.
In the immediate aftermath of the events, which saw groups singing racist chants and doing Nazi salutes, President Donald Trump refused to condemn the groups of white supremacists, preferring instead to comment on the actions “on all sides,” of the clashes.
And, despite eventually speaking out against the racist groups that marched on Charlottesville, the President again seemed to contradict himself in a bizarre press conference where he defended his initial statements on the issue.
“I think there is blame on both sides,” he said.
“You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now.
“I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups. But not all of those people were neo-Nazis. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch.
“Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee. So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I notice that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?”
President Trump’s remarks have been praised by David E. Duke, the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.