Confederate statues. Swastikas. Torches. Assault weapons. Not On Our Watch!

By continuing to give support to white supremacists, neo-Nazis and alt-right racists President Trump is laying the groundwork for further violence. The national discussion about the proper role of Confederate monuments in our history and society will continue for some time. We urge you to support the removal of these symbols of slavery and treason, but there are many more lessons to be learned from Charlottesville. Today we turn our attention to the threat to our lives and democracy posed by the presence of assault weapons and other tools of violence in our public spaces.

Following the alt-right initiated violence and murder in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 13, President Trump inflamed the national debate by blaming the victims of the violence and praising “our beautiful (Confederate) statues and monuments”. Trump went on to state that there was no moral difference between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, on one hand, and Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson. There is ample material available in newspapers and on TV that explains in detail the blatant falseness of these statements. We encourage you to call for the removal of all Confederate monuments in your home towns and especially in Washington, DC. 

Paul Duggan of the Washington Post, writing about the events in Charlottesville on August 13, reported that “one of the more chilling sights, amid hours of raging hatred and mayhem, was of camouflage-clad “militiamen” on the streets, girded for combat in tactical vests and toting military-style semiautomatic rifles.”  Clearly the police are being restrained in their efforts to keep the peace by the presence of heavily armed right wing militia.  This is a serious problem.

A group calling itself the Pennsylvania Light Foot Militia, comprised of 32 organized armed men, was at the Charlottesville protest to, in their leader’s words, “insure that the First Amendment rights of the (alt-right & neo-Nazi) protestors were protected”.  According to an interview with this commander, there are many such militias in the mid Atlantic and North East who have mutual defense agreements. Similarly, in San Antonio Texas as the city council was considering the removal of a Confederate statue, 10 individuals donning Kevlar vests and carrying assault rifles “stood guard” outside the room.  This is intimidation, pure and simple.

Racist and fascist alt right groups, taking advantage of court protected First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble and to express their view however heinous they may be to some of us, are now using permissive gun laws to intimidate the police and public officials, as well as citizens who disagree with them.

Armed, paramilitary style militias pose a fundamental threat to peaceful assembly and democratic processes.  Under these circumstances, our current gun laws will make it impossible for us to function as a democracy. When political factions and individuals have the right to brandish lethal weapons, no one is safe; genuine debate, discussion and disagreement are not possible; and force replaces the rule of law.  Armed intimidation is never acceptable..

Permits for marches, protests, and demonstrations must not be issued without evidence of a commitment to peaceable assembly, free of weaponry. This issue must be added to our commitment to using the political process and the right to peaceable assembly to oppose the white supremacist views that President Trump has legitimized

Call To Action

  1. Call your local and national officials to support the removal of statues in your community and in Washington, DC that celebrate the leaders of a treasonous war perpetrated to maintain slavery. 
  2. Call your Governor and state legislators to insist that open carry be made illegal in your state and that permits for marches and demonstrations be issued only for unarmed events and to groups who have been vetted regarding the likelihood of violence.
  3. Continue to stay focused on these very real threats to democracy, civic discourse, and the values of tolerance and inclusion. Stand up when standing up is called for and support your fellow citizens when they are targets of intolerance and bigotry.