Nicole Lafond

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.

Articles by Nichole

The violent events that transpired at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend has pushed the American Civil Liberties Union to take a tougher stance on the hate groups it defends in court.

The civil rights group will now screen its clients more closely and won’t represent groups who protest while carrying firearms, the executive director told The Wall Street Journal Thursday.

The ACLU’s Virginia branch defended the neo-Nazis’ right to assemble when the group gathered last weekend to protest the removal of the confederate statue of Robert E. Lee. The organization is known for its defense of the free speech rights of hate groups, claiming that creating exceptions to the First Amendment for hate groups make the less stringent for everyone.

“The events of Charlottesville require any judge, any police chief and any legal group to look at the facts of any white-supremacy protests with a much finer comb,” Executive Director Anthony  Romero told the Journal. “If a protest group insists, ‘No, we want to be able to carry loaded firearms,’ well, we don’t have to represent them. They can find someone else.”

The group’s Virginia branch defended the white supremacists against Charlottesville’s efforts to deny them a permit. City officials wanted the protest moved a mile away from the park to better accommodate the crowd. The ACLU argued in federal court that the city’s decision was based on opposition to the group’s views, not safety concerns.

Many lashed out against the civil rights group when violence broke out at the rally. A self-proclaimed white supremacist allegedly drove his car through a crowd of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Hayer and injuring 19 others. 

Several members of the group that assembled last Saturday were carrying firearms, but no one was hurt by them. Romero said the ACLU thinks just having guns at a protest can suppress freedom of speech through intimidation.

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Just hours after a truck plowed through the historic Las Ramblas district in Barcelona, Spain Thursday, President Donald Trump condemned the incident and called it a “terror attack.” He said the U.S. would do “whatever is necessary to help.”

Not long after the attack took place, authorities labeled the incident an act of terror. But the President’s immediate condemnation of the assault as “terror” stood in contradiction to how he handled a recent car attack at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump claimed it took him 48 hours to condemn the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who incited the violence because he wanted to make to make sure he got all the facts about the incident before he put out an explicit statement.

However, Trump is known for jumping to conclusions — and is quick to call incidents terrorism — before he has the facts.

He claimed police were investigating the shooting at an Orlando night club in 2016 as an act of terrorism before it had been confirmed. He described a blast in Manhattan as “a bomb” before police had confirmed the nature of the explosion.

In June he condemned a “terrorist attack in Manila” that was later ruled the work of a lone gunman.

He tweeted again Thursday afternoon and referenced a questionable anecdote that he cited a few times during his campaign, saying people should “study what General Pershing” did to terrorists when he caught them.

“There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!” he said.

The tweet references a story about United States Army Gen. John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing that Trump told during his campaign. He claimed that during the aftermath of the Philippine-American War of 1899 to 1902, Pershing “took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pigs’ blood” and killed 49 Muslim rebels.

“The 50th person, he said, ‘You go back to your people and tell them what happened.’ And for 25 years, there wasn’t a problem,” Trump said in February 2016.

Historians have since debunked Trump’s account of the anecdote.

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A Wilmington, N.C. resident has been repeatedly hanging a white flag on the gun of a statue of a Confederate soldier this week, despite attempts from neighbors to take it down, according to WWAY3 News.

The resident, Andrew Bopes, said he has been hanging the flag because he doesn’t understand why the statue is still there and gets tired of walking past it every day going to work and coming home.

“It doesn’t have too much of an effect on me except my empathy,” he told WWAY3. “There is no context as to why it’s displayed. It’s a participation trophy for someone on the wrong side of history. It needed some context and the white surrender flag gives it context.”

A local neighbor has been taking the flag down when he sees it up and told the TV station that since there’s “a lot going on in our nation right now” the flag could cause things to “escalate in this area and we don’t need that to happen,” the neighbor, Chris Dobrusky, said.

Communities across the country have grappled over what to do with monuments and statues commemorating the Confederacy in the wake of a violent white supremacist rally last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The protest over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee turned violent last weekend when white supremacists gathered to rally against the statue’s removal. A man associated with the white nationalists allegedly drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one woman.

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After President Donald Trump lashed out against Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) Thursday for criticizing Trump’s remarks about the violence in Charlottesville, Graham shot back.

During a rocky press conference on Tuesday, Trump said “not all of these people were neo-Nazis, believe me.” He also said people on the “alt-right” and the “alt-left” were to blame for the violence, even though it was a self-proclaimed white supremacist who allegedly drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters and killed a woman named Heather Heyer.

Graham responded by saying he and many others do not support the “moral equivalency” the President made between the “white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally and people like Ms. Heyer.”

The President then lashed out on Graham on Twitter Thursday morning, calling the senator’s comments a “disgusting lie” and suggesting the people of South Carolina would remember what he said when Graham runs for reelection in 2020.

Graham responded by asking Trump to move the party in the correct direction.

“Mr. President, like most I seek to move our nation, my state and our party forward — toward the light — not back to the darkness,” he said, adding Trump’s tweet honoring Heyer was “very nice and appropriate. Well done.”

“However, because of the manner in which you handled the Charlottesville tragedy you are now receiving praise from some of the most racist and hate-filled individuals and groups in our country. For the sake of our nation — as our President — please fix this,” he said.

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After debates between township and city officials in a community near Cincinnati over which jurisdiction actually owned a Confederate monument for Robert E. Lee, city officials in Franklin, Ohio have decided to remove the monument.

Recently, a monument ‘erected and dedicated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and Friends’ marking the Dixie Highway has become the subject of a great deal of attention for our small community,” a Franklin city official said in a statement, referencing the recent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that turned deadly. White nationalists and members of the alt-right showed up to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. 

As one of four Confederate monuments in Ohio, the Robert E. Lee memorial was donated to the community by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and Friends in 1927 and is located near the city’s Right of Way for the Dixie Highway, reported.

While the memorial is the property of the township, the city has the right to move it if it causes a public safety hazard, which officials said they would do.

“Our crews will remove the monument and return their property to (the township’s) selected location forthwith,” the city said.

The Franklin Township relinquished its right to the memorial over to the city, but said it was important to remember the “history of our beloved country.”

Whether events of the past may have been celebratory or unpleasant, it is important that we remember the culmination of all such events is what has transpired and shaped this great nation, including Franklin Township,” the township administrator Traci Stivers said in a statement.

The decision to remove the memorial — no new location had been determined as of Wednesday, reported — comes just as the President tweeted that it is sad to see the history and culture of our country being ripped apart.”


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After lashing out at Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for criticizing the President for his comments on the violence that broke out at Charlottesville, Va. rally last weekend, President Donald Trump attacked another Republican colleague on Twitter Thursday: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

He praised Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward (R) for challenging “Flake Jeff Flake” in the 2018 Arizona GOP primary, calling the senator “WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He’s toxic!” Trump tweeted.

The criticism comes after Flake several weeks appearing on cable news shows, discussing his new book “Conscience of a Conservative” and calling out his party for embracing Trump and abandoning traditional conservative values.

Trump is also scheduled to hold a campaign rally in Phoenix next Tuesday evening, his first visit out west since he was elected president. 

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Although politicians on the right and the left called out the President for his response to the Charlottesville, Va. attack — either by name or by denouncing his comments — President Donald Trump decided to lash out against Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Twitter Thursday morning.

On Wednesday Graham released a statement denouncing Trump for blaming both “sides” for the violence that broke out at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last weekend.

“Through his statements yesterday, President Trump took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally and people like Ms. Heyer,” Graham said, referencing the woman, Heather Heyer, who was killed during the rally. “I, along with many others, do not endorse this moral equivalency.”

But the President claims he never made that type of comparison, despite remarks he made to media at a rocky press conference Tuesday, saying “not all of these people were neo-Nazis, believe me.”

He also said people on the “alt-right” and the “alt-left” were to blame for the violence, even though it was a self-proclaimed white supremacist who allegedly drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters and killing Heyer.

Trump called Graham’s comments a “disgusting lie” and referenced Graham’s reelection in 2020, saying the people of South Carolina “will remember” Graham’s comments.

He then blamed the media for misrepresenting “what I say about hate, bigotry, etc. Shame!”

The President’s initial statements about the attack said there was violence on “many sides,” failing to condemn the white supremacist, Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis who gathered in the city Saturday. He finally called out the violent groups 48 hours later and then proceeded to blame both sides again the next day.

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Vice President Mike Pence is standing by President Trump in the wake of Trump’s off-the-rails press conference in he assigned blame to “both sides” for violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend.

“What happened in Charlottesville was a tragedy and the President has been clear on this tragedy and so have I. I spoke at lengths about this heartbreaking situation on Sunday night in Colombia. And I stand by the President and I stand by those words,” Pence said, speaking from Chile on Wednesday. He said he is planning to end his weeklong trip to Latin America early and return to the U.S. Thursday. Pence was originally scheduled to return to the U.S. on Friday.

Trump said Tuesday that the “alt-right” and the “alt-left” were to blame for the violence that broke out at a rally in Charlottesville, Va., when a self-proclaimed white supremacist allegedly drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters and killing one woman named Heather Heyer.

The vice president said Wednesday “our hearts are in Charlottesville” with the family and friends who gathered to “say farewell to a remarkable young woman.”

“We’ve been praying, we’ve been praying for God’s comfort for her family and her friends and we are also praying in America, we will not allow the few to divide the many,” he said. “The strength of the United States of America is always strongest, as the President has said so eloquently, when we are united. Around our shared values and so it will always be.”

Pence’s comments come after Trump has received widespread criticism — and praise from known white supremacists — for his comments during an unhinged press conference where he seemed to defend white supremacists. 

“I think there’s blame on both sides,” Trump said Tuesday.

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During a segment on “Fox and Friends” Wednesday morning, host Abby Huntsman brought left- and right-leaning guests on the air to debate protesters tearing down monuments of Confederate soldiers, but the guests took the conversation in a different direction.

When asked what she makes of protesters tearing down the statues in her home state of North Carolina, Wendy Osefo, a John Hopkins University professor and political commentator, said the discussion needs to be “beyond a monument.”

“This is about hatred, this is about white supremacy and to have Heather Heyer killed on U.S. soil by Nazis, Deandre Harris beaten and bludgeoned by Nazis,” she said. “This is not talking points here, this is not partisanship, this is human life and as a mother, to hear the President of these United States not sit here and condemn what has happened — as a black woman of two black boys, my heart bleeds.”

Huntsman attempted to steer the debate back to the Confederate statues several times, but GOP strategist Gianno Caldwell gave a tearful monologue in response, saying he came to the interview “with a heavy heart” and said he “couldn’t sleep at all” last night because of the President’s response to violence at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a self-proclaimed white supremacist allegedly drove his car into a crowd of counter-protestors, killing a woman named Heather Hayer.

The President took 48 hours to condemn the white nationalists and neo-Nazis and later said at a press conference that both the “alt-right” and the “alt-left” were to blame for the violence. 

Caldwell said he felt “betrayed” by Trump.

“Our President has literally betrayed the conscience of our country. The very moral fabric in which we have made progress when it comes to race relations in America. He has failed us. And it’s very unfortunate that our President would say things like he did in that press conference yesterday when he says there are ‘good people on the side of the Nazis. They weren’t all Nazis and they weren’t all white supremacists.’ Mr. President, good people don’t (pal) around with Nazis and white supremacists. Maybe they don’t consider themselves white supremacists and Nazis, certainly they hold those views. This has become very troubling for anyone to come on any network and defend what President Trump did and said at that press conference yesterday is completely lost and the potential to be morally bankrupt. I’m sorry, no I believe that and I’m being very honest as one who has been talking about these issues for a very long time. I’m sorry that this is where we are right now. I hope the President learns a lesson from his press conference on yesterday. It’s disturbing.”

Cable news hosts and guests have expressed their frustrations with President Donald Trump since his provocative press conference Tuesday.

On Tuesday evening, Fox News co-host Kat Timpf called his remarks “disgusting” and said she felt as though she could cry over his comments. “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican, called Trump the President of the white nationalist movement.

Watch the Fox and Friends interview below:

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Expressing grave concern over President Donald Trump’s provocative comments at a press conference Tuesday — where he defended white supremacists by saying both “sides” were to blame for violence that broke out at a rally last weekend — “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough said Trump has officially placed himself on the wrong side of history.

“He is now the President, not only of America, but the white nationalist movement. David Duke saying ‘thank you, Mr. President, for your courage to tell the truth about Charlottesville,'” Scarborough said, referencing tweets from the former Ku Klux Klan leader who thanked Trump for his remarks on Twitter Tuesday. “David Duke, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, Klans members, they stand on one side and apparently the rest of America and the world stands on the other.”

During the press conference Tuesday, the President said both the “alt-left” and the “alt-right” were responsible for violence at a recent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

On Saturday, a group of white nationalists gathered to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee memorial in the southern town, when a self-proclaimed white supremacist allegedly drove his car into a crowd of counter-protestors, killing one woman and injuring more than a dozen people.

 “The President has chosen sides and it is very clear not only morally, especially morally, but also politically, he has chosen the wrong side,” Scarborough said.

He said it is now “up to the rest of us” to decide how to respond and he called on fellow Republicans to avoid indifference or “granting Donald Trump the sort of moral equivalency that Donald Trump granted Nazis, white supremacists and Klans members.”

A former Republican congressman, Scarborough recently announced he would be leaving the GOP party because of the President’s actions and his party’s failure to confront Trump.

“Time and time and time again, they turn the other way. And they’re doing the same thing now,” he said on CBS’ “Late Show” with Stephen Colbert last month.

Watch the full video below:

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