FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:August 13, 2017
Yesterday, this country’s leadership failed its citizens and allowed White supremacists, KKK, and Neo-Nazi infiltrators to be violent, vicious, and murderous in the city of Charlottesville, VA. Friday night the nation had been alarmed by the lighted torch invasion of the UVA campus by hundreds of Neo-Nazis and White supremacists chanting racist slurs including “Jews cannot replace us,” “Blood and Soil”, and spewing racial epithets. Unimpeded by police, they rallied for hours, assaulted a small contingent of peaceful counter-protesters before marching on a local church where a civil rights service and rally was taking place before being forcefully dispersed.
The day began with one group of nonviolent activist s led by Black Clergy and interracial/interdenominational clergy, who had come to the city to participate in peaceful social justice actions and condemn hatred. They were attacked by a mob of White supremacists, KKK members, and Neo-Nazis, made up of mostly armed white males who came prepared to “wipe out oppression”. After a morning and afternoon of violence, James Alex Fields drove his car into the back of racial justice demonstrators returning home and killed 32 year Heather Heyer and injured 19 others. In the end, a community was left in turmoil, lives were lost, people were critically injured, and instead of peace and love, hate and bigotry rang in the air for all the world to see, because the President of the United States, having inspired this atmosphere through his words and misdeeds, ignored what happened.
The Civil Rights Coalition on Policing Reform (“Coalition”) was created in the aftermath of the killing by law enforcement of Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, MO in August 2014. The coalition condemns the failure of the White House to profoundly denounce the presence and actions of these hate groups in Charlottesville, VA yesterday. Donald Trump’s speech late in the day was a complete abdication of his leadership role as President to denounce organized and violent bigots hate mongers. Instead, he said, “ We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. On many sides.” These vague and insidious words are far from an honest and full condemnation of the bigotry and hatred of these white supremacist groups.
The Coalition is also disappointed by the slow and weak response from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to come to the aid of the city of Charlottesville and the peaceful social justice activists. There were clear and visible images via multiple media outlets showing hateful words, spitting, hitting, and other violent acts of terror by these White supremacist groups. The lack of a timely response to these images from the Attorney General of the United States is oppressive and encouraged the continued violence by these domestic terrorists. Made late Saturday night, the statement from DOJ “to look into possible hate crimes” and to open a federal civil rights investigation into “the deadly car attack” are is limited, slow, and doesn’t encompass all of the crimes that happened yesterday. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ statement : was “The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice. When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.” This is degrading to the office of Attorney General as he states “…such actions arise from ….”, while refusing to poignantly and emphatically state that these deeds were acts of terrorism done by bigots and White supremacists whose primary purpose for gathering in Charlottesville was to be violent.
We must not forget the reasons why Black Clergy and many social justice activists made the pilgrimage to Charlottesville, VA. Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy took on a noble task of eliminating the hurtful and harmful history that the remembrance of the Confederacy brought to the city. He welcomed vivacious dialogue with his city and was met by hateful bigotry and violence by White supremacists, KKK members, and Neo-Nazis. The Black Clergy and social justice activists who went to Charlottesville joined the many people of this nation, of this world, who denounce and resist hatred everyday. They are working to create a world that is inclusive and respectful of all lives. We embrace the words of Heather Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro,
“..I want her death to be a rallying cry for justice and equality and fairness and compassion.”
The Civil Rights Coalition on Policing Reform will remain active in its charge to create a better law enforcement system in this country and at the same time join brave social justice activists in our quest for “igniting change” in the world.