Transcript: Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer on "Face the Nation," Aug. 13, 2017

Four people have been arrested over the violence that gripped Charlottesville, Virginia on Sunday, including one man charged with second-degree murder for an allegedly ramming a car into counter-protesters at a white nationalist rally. 

President Trump condemned the violence, but has been criticised for not labelling the apparent vehicle attack "terrorism," and for the tone of his remarks on the mayhem.

Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer appeared to suggest that Mr. Trump himself should shoulder some of the blame for the nation's tense racial climate, referring to "a very sad and regrettable coarseness in our politics."

He spoke to "Face the Nation" about the violence, and the reaction to it. A transcript of the interview, which aired Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017, is below.   


JOHN DICKERSON: Joining us now is the Mayor of Charlottesville, Democrat Mike Signer. Mr. Mayor, first we want to offer our condolences to the families of the two Virginia state police officers and the family of the victim. What can--

MIKE SIGNER: Thanks.

JOHN DICKERSON: -- you tell you us about the injured and the suspect?

MIKE SIGNER: I mean, you're-- you're speaking to the mayor of a city that is grieving right now. I mean we-- first of all, our thoughts and prayers are out to the families of both of those troopers and to the-- to the young woman who also perished. And we have, you know, we have a lot of folks who, I think 19 are injured in the hospital right now. So, we are, it was-it was a, it was a tough weekend for Charlottesville.  But we're going to get through it. We're going to come through this and, you know -- so that's where we are right now.

JOHN DICKERSON: The Washington Post said that the police had a quote "anemic response" unquote to the clashes, what's your response to that? Could more have been done?

MIKE SIGNER: You know, I think that's -- that's totally mistaken. We had the single largest assembly of law enforcement officers since 9/11, almost 1,000 law enforcement personnel. We even went as far as our city manager made a decision on the Mondaybefore the weekend when the rally was scheduled, to move the permit, the location for the rally, to a larger park, a 100 acre park, within the city borders, which would have provided even more speech and would have allowed all that assembly with, you know with armed-- very-- people with  very strong opinions for this to occur longer. That was struck down by a federal judge who forced us to have this-- to have this event this in very crowded, dense downtown Charlottesville on the eve of the event at 9 o'clock

 so that was a regret. I regret that that happened. But we had a-- a we had a very strong security plan in place with a lot of folks, to allow people to express their-- to express their views.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you--

MIKE SIGNER: Unfortunately they didn't want to do it peaceably so that's what happened.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about preparations you may have to make in the future.  Richard Spencer, a white nationalist, has promised to come back to Charlottesville, he said, a thousand times. What's your response?

MIKE SIGNER: You know, I mean, this is somebody who traffics in-- in bluster and in intimidation, I'm not in the habit of making any decisions based on-- on somebody who, you know, does those things. I think we have a responsibility as a-- as a government sworn to the constitution to not just allow free speech but to--but to protect it, as long as it's done peaceably. Which is what we attempted to do this weekend.  If you have folks who are going to come in and act un-peaceably then you're going to get unlawfully assembly declared which is just what happened yesterday.

JOHN DICKERSON: Mr. Mayor, the president said that he wanted to know what was going on in Charlottesville and that we want to see what we're doing wrong as a country, he said. What's your answer to that?

MIKE SIGNER: You know, I don't want to make this too much about Donald Trump, we have a lot of grieving, a lot of work to do as a-- as a city and as a country, but he should look in the mirror.  I mean, he made a choice in his presidential campaign, the folks around with him, to, you know, go right to the gutter, to play on our worst prejudices.  And I think you are seeing a direct line from what happened here this weekend to those choices.  He has the opportunity, as do we all, to have a fresh beginning.

Like I've said, our democracy has been through much worse than this, but that requires us to rise to the occasion.  We're going to do that work here -- we're going to work on civility and-- listening, deliberation, first amendment, religious toleration, pluralism.  I mean, those are ideas-- are what got us here now.  But, you know, we've just seen this-- this-- tide of coarseness, cynicism, bullying, and-- you know, a festival of going to the absolute worst elements that previously have been hidden.  Now they've been invited out into the daylight.  I mean a lot of people were coming here this weekend saying this will be a shot heard 'round the world, this will be the Alt-right's moment, this will be Alt-right 2.0.  You know, all that kind of rhetoric.  And I think they were-- they're getting-- you know, they're getting okays for that, because they were invited into basically a-- a presidential campaign.  That has to stop, and it can stop now.

What I did not hear in the president's statement yesterday, as well-intentioned as it may have been, is I didn't hear the words 'white supremacy'.  And I think that it's important to call this for what it is and to say, okay, this-- this show has run its course, this shark has been jumped, let's-- let's move on.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right, Mr. Mayor, thanks so much for being with us.

MIKE SIGNER: Thanks.