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The UN has warned the United States over its alarming rise in ethnic violence

White nationalist demonstrators walk into Lee park surrounded by counter demonstrators in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and police dressed in riot gear ordered people to disperse after chaotic violent clashes between white nationalists and counter protestors. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
AP Photo/Steve Helber
Cause for concern.
By Marc Bain
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

A United Nations committee has issued a formal warning to the United States and its president, Donald Trump, over recent racial violence in the country, indicating serious concern that conflicts like the recent one in Charlottesville, Virginia, will spread.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has issued an “early warning,” the first step in its system of measures to prevent tensions from escalating and inform member states of the urgent need to address problems. It criticized the US for “failure at the highest political level to unequivocally reject racist violent events.”

The statement, though it doesn’t say so explicitly, appears to refer to Trump’s widely criticized response to the violent clashes on Aug. 12 between white-supremacist groups and counter-protesters in Charlottesville. Trump called the fighting an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” suggesting that the counter-protesters were as much to blame as the white supremacists.

One woman, Heather Heyer, was killed that day, when a man with neo-Nazi sympathies drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters. Shortly after, a group of UN experts voiced its concern over the rise of racism and xenophobia in the US, which critics of Trump say he emboldened through his tepid response to Charlottesville.

The UN’s new warning calls on US authorities to take concrete measures to address the spread of hate groups. ”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,” CERD Chairperson Anastasia Crickley said in a statement.

CERD has officially warned the US before, in 2006 when it raised the issue of US land conflicts with the Western Shoshone indigenous peoples. Its criticism of the country’s efforts to end racial discrimination haven’t always met with favorable responses from the political right in the US. In 2008, a researcher at the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, called for the US to “seriously reconsider the level of its future engagement with the committee,” claiming it was biased.

The committee’s new statement, however, is an alarm bell about specific events and the path the US appears to be headed down, harming its often sanitized global image (paywall). Other countries it has raised the alarm about in recent years include Burundi and Iraq.

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