On August 12th, 2017, James Alex Fields deliberately drove his car into a crowd of activists who were protesting the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. He murdered Heather Heyer, injured 19 others, and attempted to flee the scene before being apprehended by local law enforcement doing their best to maintain order. On July 5th, Fields pled not guilty after being indicted on 30 charges including hate crimes “causing bodily injury and involving an attempt to kill.”
I watched the video clips replaying that scene last August in horror. It was a wakeup call to me that violent hatred had arrived in our own backyard and must be met with equal fervency from good people standing for inclusion of others. Election anxiety, equivocating politicians, and tacit approval on the campaign trail of this type of behavior aside, watching a speeding sedan being driven malevolently into a group of peaceful counter-protesters chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!” signaled that something deeply unsettling was happening in our country.
White supremacists espousing anti-American views of immigrants, confederate sympathizers glorifying a government that championed slavery, and openly racist militants pushing discrimination against everyone who isn’t white, straight, cisgender, and male have no place in the tapestry of modern American society. Their intolerant ideology will not be tolerated in my city — in my country.
Now a year later and seemingly still emboldened, the organizers of the rally are planning to bring their violent rhetoric and hateful ideology to our nation’s capital to hold a similar rally under the thinly-veiled pretext of “white civil rights” on the anniversary of Heather’s murder. I write today to say that their hate is absolutely not welcome in the District of Columbia — a city that has prevailed over rebellion and fascism during our country’s most trying times by ardently defending a central premise of our founding: that all men are created equal.
My grandfathers, descendants of Chickasaw Native Americans and European immigrants, both served in World War II and fought against Nazi Germany as Hitler sought to eradicate a people and dominate the world. I think they’d be astounded that the same terrible ideology they fought so hard to banish forever to the pages of history is rearing its ugly head on our own shores — by our own fellow citizens. Today, I think they’d be mad as hell and rise to action by doing everything in their power to prevent it from happening. That’s why I started a petition on Change.org urging our elected officials to deny these radicals a forum for this type of hate speech and reject an assembly that’s predisposed to violence.
My co-signers and I urge our elected officials, including National Park Service Director Acting Director Smith, House Speaker Ryan, Delegate Norton, and Mayor Bowser, to deny these hateful people a permit to hold their rally. But failing that, rest assured that the good people of Washington, DC and Americans from across the country will be there in force, drowning out their hateful noise with an overpowering message of love, inclusion, and equality for our fellow brothers and sisters. Join us. Be visible. Speak out. And raise your voice as we declare loudly together: hate is not welcome in America.