By Melanie Zanona
Escalating tensions this summer have stepped up fears about political violence.
Law enforcement officials, college campuses and cities around the country are bracing for a new wave of alt-right rallies in the weeks and months to come, with parties on both sides of the debate over Confederate statues and monuments prepared for standoffs.
At the center of it all is President Trump, whose heated rhetoric has angered opponents while firing up his supporters, magnifying the sense that the political divide in the country is growing wider.
“When there seems to be no room for compromise and no appetite for listening to the other side, the potential for violence is higher,” said Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “And the Confederate monuments are the obvious flashpoint.”
Even before the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., this month, which left one woman dead and 19 others injured after a car mowed down a group of counterprotesters, there was already heightened concern over the threat of violence amid a hyper-charged political environment in the country.
A lone gunman shot up a baseball field earlier this summer where Republican members and staffers were practicing for a charity game, leaving House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) in critical condition.
And the first half of this year saw an alarming uptick in death threats against lawmakers, with Capitol Police investigating more threats in the first half of 2017 than all of last year. Many lawmakers have refused to hold town halls this year, claiming they feel it is too dangerous.
The increasing threats come after one of the most divisive presidential campaigns in modern U.S. history. Tempers on both sides ran high during the 2016 cycle, with punches being thrown at some campaign events.
But even after taking office, Trump has generally stuck to the same street-fighting style that energized his base and helped propel him to victory.
“He himself is kind of more inflammatory, and he tends to react to things in this more aggressive manner. That can be good for a campaign and welcome in a primary, but it’s complicated for trying to build unity,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professo