AFT president calls on Sessions, State AGs to take increased action to combat hateAround the Nation, Online Only, Top Highlights Saturday, August 19th, 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. — American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten has sent letters to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and 50 state attorneys general urging a “new level” of action to combat hatred, bigotry and white supremacy following the weekend’s terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Va., and to safeguard the civil liberties of the American people and keep communities safe.
Weingarten issued the following statement upon sending the letters: “Children, families and communities are really scared right now by the threats and actions of white supremacist and hate groups intended to intimidate and terrorize our towns and neighborhoods. While having a voice is important and freedom of speech should always be protected in our country, no matter how heinous and despicable that speech is, voice and violence are two different things. This is a matter of public safety. Since the president of the United States has failed to do what is required to keep Americans safe and combat hatred, bigotry and violence, we are calling on the Justice Department and state attorneys general to take action.”
In her letter to Sessions, sent this afternoon, Weingarten writes that she is encouraged by the decision to initiate an investigation into the Charlottesville attack, but calls on the Justice Department to ensure the probe deeply examines white supremacist organizations and their allies planning further violent confrontations, while respecting the First Amendment.
Weingarten writes in the letter to Sessions:
“These events stand as a sobering reminder of the racist and anti-Semitic beliefs held by a malicious group of American white supremacists and neo-Nazis, who now feel empowered to use violence and incite terror and fear in our communities. …
“Make no mistake, the terror and hatred unleashed in Charlottesville does not exist in isolation. It is being unmasked in communities across our great nation. Therefore, we further call on you not only to investigate what happened in Charlottesville, but to probe deeper into the agenda of white supremacist organizations and their neo-Nazi allies present within the United State who may have plans for future violent confrontations. These steps are necessary to defend the American people against the proliferation of hate crimes and domestic terrorism.
“The American people need assurance that the law will be enforced to protect them. We intend to closely follow the actions of the Justice Department to ensure its response to what you correct describe as an ‘evil attack that cannot be accepted in America,’ as well as any future attacks meant to undermine the vitality of our constitutional democracy, is sufficiently vigorous to ensure an end to the type of domestic terrorism witnessed in Charlottesville.”
In her letter to state attorneys general, Weingarten calls for the implementation of a “clear plan of action that will ensure bias-motivated violence and harassment is prosecuted swiftly and aggressively” and that “every law at your disposal must be fully actualized and implemented through your investigatory and prosecutorial powers.”
“Please remember that hateful speech is not harmless speech and that a swastika on a headstone, a racial slur on the door of a home or other similar defacements are precisely the kind of hateful acts that preceded the horrors of World War II,” Weingarten writes.
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