Statement from WILPF US on Charlottesville

21 August 2017

12 August 2017

The members of the United States Section of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF US), working in support of peace and social justice since our founding in 1915, abhor and condemn the immoral, reprehensive and lethal actions undertaken under the specious guise of “free speech” in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, August 12, 2017. The rally and speeches in support of racism and white supremacy and other kinds of hatred,[i] and the discrimination, violence and death resulting from it[ii] are reprehensible and illegal under many Federal statutes[iii] and state and local laws.

WILPF US applauds Mike Signer, the Mayor of Charlottesville, for condemning the rally and its organizers and for pointing towards the “direct line” between these heinous actions and the speech and other actions by the President of the United States Donald Trump in encouraging such behavior. “‘I don’t want to make this too much about Donald Trump,'” Signer told John Dickerson on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “‘We have a lot of grieving, a lot of work to do as a city and as a country. But he should look in the mirror. I mean, he made a choice in his presidential campaign, the folks around with him, to, you know, go right to the gutter, to play on our worst prejudices.'”[iv] We encourage follow-up actions to identify and prosecute all those engaged in the terrorist activities on Saturday, August 12, and not just the driver of the automobile who injured many and killed at least one of the peaceful protesters against the terrorist rally.

All members of WILPF send sympathy and caring to the family of Heather Heyer, whose life was taken by a young man filled with distorted and dangerous views feed by the glorification of combat and war. Our sympathy extends as well to the two state troopers who were killed in a helicopter crash while surveying the crowd, and those who were injured during the protests.

Even in face of all these disastrous events, waiting 36 hours, President Trump only replied with muddled messages containing little to counter the scurrilous spit of words from the mouths of armed white supremacists. With those verbal bullets ricocheting throughout our society, they have found notoriety they crave, and the precious freedom of speech is once again taken advantage of by those who would destroy that right for all. In a New York Times online editorial, Sunday, August 13, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, was quoted as asserting that Trump’s “words were – not – not what this nation needs.” The editorial also stated that “Mr. Trump’s fear of naming the source of Saturday’s violence sharply contrasts with his eagerness to call out Islamist terror.”[v]

However, working here is a much more insidious and centuries old systemic malaise. Cornel West, professor of the practice of public philosophy at Harvard University, who was in the crowd, pointed to this overarching repression and degradation of the “other” on Democracy Now! (August 14). Recounting his experience and at the same time showing where this deeply-entrenched ‘economy of privilege’ resides: “…the rule of big money, with massive militarism, facilitated by the scapegoating of the most vulnerable, of immigrants, Muslims, Jews, Arabs, gay, lesbians, trans and bisexuals, and black folk. The white supremacy was so intense. I’ve never seen that kind of hatred in my life. (…) But that kind of hatred-but that is just the theater. It’s big money. It’s big military. And it’s the way in which this capitalist civilization is leading us toward unbelievable darkness and bleakness.”[vi]

We call on President Trump to work with the Attorney General and Justice Department to make clear that any such behaviors, these and any attempted in the future, will be treated as the hate crimes that they are under Federal law. WILPF US members call upon our fellow Americans to speak up, and to demand that the President of the United States:

  • renounce as hate crimes the violence and terrorism by white supremacists and others who would support these actions;
  • and that he takes affirmative actions to remove the sense of entitlement and impunity for such behaviors that he has engendered since having begun his successful campaign to election as the Office of President.
  • to bring together the best and brightest of minds and hearts for a public dialogue on the systemic racism, a formal commission would be a start.

Hate crimes and other acts of terrorism and violence are not protected by the First Amendment. We, the members of the United States Section of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, submit that the speeches preceding the acts of violence were also designed to sow hatred and incite acts of violence. This inciting of violence must be recognized and prosecuted for what it really was – domestic terrorist activity that is not protected behavior under any circumstances.We also strongly urge the American public to demand a public dialogue that once again confronts the systemic racism.