Rejecting hate speech, intimidation, and violent acts

[Note: Iowa City City government released this statement on August 18, 2017, and the Iowa City Press-Citizen published it as a guest opinion (“Mayor: We reject hate speech, violence”) on p. 7 of their August 19 edition.]

A few days ago, Charlottesville, Virginia, was the site of a “Unite the Right” rally by armed white supremacists and neo-Nazis who brandished swastikas, Confederate battle flags, anti-Semitic banners, and “Trump/Pence” signs while chanting “blood and soil.”

The rally, which took place at Emancipation Park around a statue of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee, led to fighting in the streets and the death of a young woman and the injury of 19 other people after a gray Dodge Challenger driven by a Nazi sympathizer rammed into a group of counter-protesters.

The President initially blamed “many sides” for the violent conflict. He delivered a statement a day later declaring that “Racism is evil” and “Those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, white supremacists, and other hate groups.” Another day later he furiously ranted that “alt-left” activists were just as responsible for the bloody confrontation as the armed neo-Nazi marchers.

Does this President have no shame? To protest against racism is not morally equivalent to armed efforts at intimidation.

My uncles, Rannie and A. W., served in the U. S. Army during World War II, helping to defeat Nazis and Fascists. They could never have imagined that 70 years later the President of their country would be providing cover for neo-Nazi white supremacists. My uncles and other brave soldiers must be cringing in their graves.

We need elected leaders who can speak truthfully and can forthrightly express the moral values we stand for.

On behalf of the people of Iowa City, I say, we reject neo-Nazis who seek to intimidate others and promulgate their hate-filled ideology. Their white supremacist, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-feminist beliefs and actions are completely antithetical to our belief in the value of living in a diverse and inclusive community.

We reject hate speech and acts or threats of violence.

We are committed to the provisions of our City Charter, the human rights provisions of our City Code, and the provisions of the U. S. Constitution that protect civil liberties and provide equal protection under the law.

We grieve for the families of the young woman and two state troopers who were killed and those who were injured in Charlottesville this past weekend.

We offer our unqualified support to the people of Charlottesville, whose leaders have also renounced the acts and words of hate groups in their community.

And we ally ourselves with a statement recently issued by a coalition of environmental organizations:

“No one who stands for justice, equality, and human dignity can stay silent any longer. We will stand unified against the white nationalist movement that everyday threatens America’s people and ideals, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. We will ultimately prevail by countering this hate with love.”

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