Charlottesville: Robert E Lee protest leader says 'you have to have freedom of hate speech'

Charlottesville: 'Donald Trump was right to condemn both the alt-left and alt-right'

Many protested against white supremacy

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The man who led the protests against the removal of the Robert E Lee statue in Charlottesville has said "freedom of repugnant speech" is an inalienable human right.

However Frank Earnest also told James Whale that he and his movement completely reject the Ku Klux Klan.

Earnest represents the Sons of Confederate Veterans, an association of male descendants of men who fought for the South in the American Civil War. He launched a legal challenge to keep the statue of Lee, whose removal was at the centre of last week's violence.

However he told James he had nothing to do with the 'Unite the Right' protest and left Charlottesville before the violence erupted.

Earnest said that the protesters were "unpleasant" and "we have always denounced those organisations [involved in the violence]. we do it on a regular basis.

"This association that because evil people [such as the KKK] have usurped the Confederate flag, the flag is evil... I don’t buy that correlation."

But he continued: "The bad thing is that in order to have freedom like we have in America... we have freedom of speech and you can’t say 'freedom of speech that we approve of.'

"To have freedom of speech, you have to have freedom of repugnant speech."

Earnest also said Donald Trump was right to condemn both sides of the Charlottesville protests as only a few months ago the alt-left were killing police officers.

Many have criticised Donald Trump for condemning both sides in the Charlottesville protests and only denouncing white supremacy groups later. But Earnest told James Whale: "I don’t think the President's wrong when he says a group of people who call for the death of police officers are as bad as the other group. He is absolutely right these are two very bad groups."

The pair also discussed slavery and Earnest said he finds it "repugnant for anybody from Great Britain to try to wash their hands" of the issue. But whilst James admitted "we did some pretty disgusting appalling things" he argued that "we don't champion them now." 

Listen to the full interview above