Like all readers, and my colleagues in the General Assembly, I was appalled, sickened and dismayed by the violent “Unite the Right” demonstration, one of the largest white supremacist gatherings our nation has witnessed in a long time, that took place in Charlottesville last weekend. The tragic loss of life and horrific injuries saddens me, and our President’s comments and inability to immediately and unequivocally condemn the terrorism was too little too late. It should not be lost on anybody that the person who plowed their car into the crowd used the same method as ISIS terrorist attackers, most recently in London and Nice, France.
I attended UVA and lived in Charlottesville and still visit frequently. It is a beautiful city with wonderful people. I know that the backward opinion of these right-wing fascists do not represent the feelings of the city, the school or the region and it is beyond frustrating to have these people invade the community and preach hate and terrorize the local population. And certainly UVA, as a public institution of higher learning, values diversity, inclusion and mutual respect.
Virginia lost a brave woman and two state troopers dedicated to our safety to the violence last weekend, and they threaten to keep coming as long as there is still debate over whether to remove the Confederate statues in Charlottesville and a failure by the President to quickly condemn the hatred and violence from the white supremacists, neo-Nazis and anti-Semites, euphemistically rebranded as “Alt-right.” Indeed, this was their second time descending upon Charlottesville.
According to the Charlottesville police affidavit put out before the rally, planned attendees included the Klan; the militia movement (a right-wing movement that gained traction in the 1990s, whose members include the activists who took over a federal nature reserve in early 2016); the “3%”, a right-wing anti-government movement; the Alt-Knights, an alt-right “fight club”; and other equally racist organizations. They were waving Confederate flags, chanting Nazi slogans and displaying their bigotry for all to witness.
My question to us is where does this end for we Americans? Much to our pity, we have a President who encouraged and stoked racial divisions in his campaign, used inciteful and dangerous language in his political rallies, has hired at least three white-nationalists into prominent roles in his administration, and the “alt-right” is engaging in hatred and violence. These people used to hide behind white sheets, but last weekend, they felt safe enough, and dare I say even emancipated and encouraged to show us their faces, feeling confident enough to show the rest of us just who they really are. In what world does this play out well for anybody involved?
We have worked hard in Virginia to create an environment that welcomes diversity and offers opportunity to all people, and I am exploring legislative options to continue to do so. It is important that we all reject the hatred, racism and intolerance of these white supremacists, these domestic terrorists. We must also reject their tactics of intimidation and violence by continuing to counter protest, attend vigils and elect leaders that promote inclusion and value diversity. Virginia is for lovers, haters can stay home.