Hate must be denounced, countered with peace

STATE EDITORIAL

The News-Enterprise

Vile and ugly hatred bared its snarling teeth again. This time, the battleground was Char­lottesville, Virginia, as white supremacists invaded its streets over the weekend.

They said they came in protest of the decision by city leadership to remove from public property a monument of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. More clearly, they were there to further fan the flames of racism and division growing in our country.

Carrying torches and emblems of hate, the white-power clan began its siege on the city with what was touted to be a “pro-white” march on the campus of the University of Virginia.

This march spurred fistfights and physical brawls between the separatists and other demonstrators who chose violence as a reactive response to counter the repulsive extremist message being delivered.

By Saturday, more white supremacists had made their way into the foray, adorned with swastikas and other symbols of Nazism, many openly carrying weapons. Counter-protestors, some with equally ill-intentioned motivations as evidenced by their reactive violent behaviors, added to the numbers pouring into the streets.

As chaos escalated, Virginia’s governor declared a state of emergency. Law-enforcement officers in riot gear attempted to maintain the peace.

When a vehicle slammed into the crowd of demonstrators, 32-year-old Charlottesville resident Heather Heyer was killed and 19 others injured. Two Virginia state troopers also died as a result of the crash of their helicopter as they observed the protests. More than a dozen other protestors were injured.

As more rallies and demonstrations take place in the wake of the violence that erupted in Charlottesville, what should be learned locally in the aftermath?

Foremost is the realization that hate groups seek the attention and reaction their abhorrent rhetoric and behavior receives. Attempts to counter it with equally loud, raucous or at worst, violent response only feeds their drive – and membership.

While speech is protected constitutionally, this isn’t to say their hatred ever should be accepted or tolerated. But reaction and response to their racist blabbering must be rejected with clear and peaceful discourse.

Law enforcement preparedness and response must be swift and certain when dealing with the extreme fringes of society. Counter demonstrators should have been kept at a distance from the Unite the Right thugs.

Further, permits to publicly demonstrate — especially surrounding such volatile and charged circumstances — should carry the clear restriction and strict enforcement that no weapons be allowed to be carried openly or otherwise.

Elected and public leaders should denounce the message before it is delivered, then remind the larger, rationally minded public how to react and respond peacefully.

Failing to call out the instigators behind the rally in his initial remarks, President Donald Trump attempted a corrective denouncement Monday of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other white-supremacists as “repugnant to all that we hold dear as Americans.”

At our highest elected office, the president must speak out clearly, coherently and consistently against racism and extremism when, where and as often as it occurs.

Supremacist ideology and demonstration — regardless of race, color or creed — has no place across America or on the streets of our communities.

While the shouting of fringe groups on the extreme edges of society will continue attempts to overthrow a peaceful, productive and prosperous country, calling out hate and racism for what it is in non-violent response will drown out their effort.