ABC’s “Fractured America: Extremism in the Streets” airs tonight, and the topic is more relevant than ever — coming on the heels of violence that broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia at a rally for white supremacists last weekend. Luckily for “20/20,” ABC News started the report six months ago.
“20/20” correspondent Tom Llamas spoke with Richard Spencer and Matthew Heimbach, leaders of two far right movements, and cameras followed them through several intense rallies and events that occurred in Charlottesville. One person died when an accused white supremacist plowed into a group of counter protestors and dozens were injured. And President Trump made global headlines when he said multiple times that “both sides” were responsible for the chaos in Charlottesville.
The special report also features organizations on the far left, including the Anarchism and Antifa groups that have made it their mission to stop hate speech, which they consider to be a form of violence, by protesting and, in some cases, disrupting public events, speeches and rallies that white nationalists organize.
TheWrap caught up with Llamas before the special for his thoughts on the situation:
TheWrap: What do you better understand about these groups now that you’ve been embedded with them for so long?
Llamas: I have a much better understanding of what drives them. The far right are white nationalists that want to carve out a piece of the United States where only whites can live. Since the 2016 campaign, extremist groups, including far-right nationalist groups have been emboldened to act more openly, better organize and commit acts of bigotry and hate. The Antifa are anti-fascists who want to stop the far right and disrupt their rallies. Antifa leaders tell us property damage and violence can be justified when taking on white supremacists. They also believe white supremacists don’t have the right to freedom of speech, especially on college campuses. Many in Antifa see hate speech as a form of violence that can be met with violence.
Did you ever imagine these opposing sides would faceoff in Charlottesville?
Leaders on both sides told us they had never seen tension this high in recent history. And before Charlottesville, many told us the clashes were getting out of control, more heated, with each side blaming the other. In our reporting we also learned that many on the far right, the white nationalists, come heavily armed with guns to demonstrations that happen in open carry states. But there are also members of Antifa who show up armed with clubs. It’s important to point out that counter-protestors at last weekend’s rally were not all Antifa. There were church groups, Black Lives Matter, local citizens and more there.
Do you think the media coverage of Charlottesville was fair?
I know here at ABC News we had teams of reporters, producers, and crews working that story from start to finish. We also put so much of this in context for our viewers. Questions like: What is the far right? Who is Antifa And the debate concerning the monuments have all been covered in-depth by our team. This “20/20” hour will give viewers one of the most thorough representations of both extreme sides. We take you into some of the far right’s secret gatherings; we speak at length with far right leaders like Richard Spencer and Matt Heimbach, and also leaders in the Antifa movement like Daryle Lamont Jenkins and Lacy MacAuley. Also, our “20/20” report brings together leaders from both sides to see if they can talk about their differences. This is something viewers have definitely not seen yet.
“Fractured America: Extremism in the Streets” airs on “20/20” Friday, August 18 at 10 p.m. ET