A Virginia member of Congress said Saturday that Russian meddling stoked the violence in Charlottesville that left one anti-racist protester dead last year.
Speaking to CNN, Rep. Tom Garrett, a Republican, said that he and the director of the FBI received a closed-door briefing roughly two months ago about the 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, a town he represents. Intelligence officers said that Russian meddling had worsened the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, according to Garrett.
Garrett didn’t specify what Russian government agents did, though they have used Facebook to incite racial tension in the past.
“I asked if Russian inter-meddling [sic] had to do with fomenting the flames of what happened in Charlottesville. I was told ‘Yes. It did,’” Garrett said. “As a member of [the House Committee on] Homeland Security, that’s seriously what scares me most. Americans pitted against Americans over real differences but that are minimal in the grand scheme of things.”
Garrett’s office did not immediately respond to a request for further comment from BuzzFeed News.
Local activists in Charlottesville disagreed with the congressman's remarks.
"Russia had NOTHING to do with what happened in Charlottesville," tweeted Emily Gorcenski, an anti-racist activist who protested the Unite the Right rally last year and has worked to expose the identities of the white supremacists involved. "I have seen the perpetrators with my own eyes, been inside their organizing circles, exposed them, and more.”
The rally brought together hundreds of white nationalists, who fought with a broad swath of anti-racist counterprotesters. One white nationalist, James Alex Fields Jr., allegedly rammed his car into a crowd of protesters, injuring dozens and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
The organizer of the Unite the Right Rally, Jason Kessler, has planned an anniversary rally for Aug. 12 in Washington, DC, which is set to take place in the park in front of the White House.