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S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster condemns Charlottesville violence but won't call to remove Confederate monuments

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Henry McMaster (copy)

Gov. Henry McMaster. File/Maya T. Prabhu/Staff

CHAPIN — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster on Monday condemned violence in Charlottesville, Va., during a rally by white supremacist groups but declined to call for Confederate monuments to come down in the state.

"I think it's a disgrace," McMaster said, adding that South Carolina has no room for hate and violence.

But asked whether South Carolina could see more Confederate monuments taken down, as has happened in other states recently, McMaster said he does not think so.

"We have been over these issues over the years," McMaster said, speaking at a job fair for laid-off workers from the now-cancelled V.C. Summer nuclear project. "I think our people are different."

McMaster first spoke up about Charlottesville in a tweet Saturday night. He alluded to South Carolina's response following the fatal 2015 attack at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, saying the state "showed world her heart when confronted by hatred & violence," and offered prayers for Charlottesville.

After the Charleston massacre by gunman Dylann Roof, who said he hoped to ignite a race war, the South Carolina Legislature voted to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds.

A "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville organized by white supremacist groups turned violent Saturday, when a gray Dodge Challenger rammed into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

The suspected driver, 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio, faces charges of second-degree murder, malicious wounding and failure to stop in an accident that resulted in death, according to local authorities.

Politicians from both parties labelled the incident "an act of domestic terrorism" and singled out white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups for blame.

But President Donald Trump initially offered a less explicit rebuke to the white nationalist groups, instead condemning violence "on all sides" in a statement Saturday from his golf resort in Bedminster, N.J.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said Trump "missed an opportunity" to condemn the white supremacist groups and urged him to "dissuade them of the fact that he's sympathetic of their cause."

"Because their cause is hate. It is un-American. They are domestic terrorists. And we need more from our president on this issue," Graham said in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday."

On Monday, two days after the Charlottesville incident, Trump issued a more specific denunciation of white supremacist groups and announced that the Department of Justice had opened a civil rights investigation into the deadly attack.

“Racism is evil,” Trump said. “And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the K.K.K., neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.

Jamie Lovegrove is a political reporter covering the South Carolina Statehouse, congressional delegation and campaigns. He previously covered Texas politics in Washington for The Dallas Morning News and in Austin for the Texas Tribune.

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