From foreign battlefields to those in the North and South during the Civil War, more than 1 million Americans have died to secure civil rights or to eradicate the Nazi menace — at least we thought it was eradicated. But we now grieve three more valiant dead from last weekend’s melee in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Heather Heyer, 32, was killed Saturday when a man identified as a neo-Nazi sympathizer from Ohio rammed his car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators during a white-nationalist rally. Two Virginia state troopers, H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Berke M.M. Bates, 40, were killed after their helicopter crashed while monitoring the chaos in the city.
This act of domestic terrorism shook the nation to its core, from Charlottesville to Denver to Coos Bay. Many Bay Area residents took a stand Tuesday night at the Coos Bay Boardwalk to show that racism is not acceptable.
Demonstrators gathered in front of the Coos Bay Boardwalk on Tuesday afternoon to show solidarity for the city of Charlottesville after white nationalist violence erupted there over the weekend, according to an Aug. 16 World article by reporter Saphara Harrell.
Around 30 protesters held signs reading: “Hate has no home here,” “Love trumps hate,” and other slogans as cars drove by on U.S. Highway 101.
Robbi Jennings, an administrator of the activist group Coos County Huddle, started planning the event Sunday.
“I was terribly depressed for three hours,” Jennings said of watching the news about the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, which ended with three people dead and more than a dozen injured.
So, Jennings decided to organize a rally.
“We’re here for peace and love,” Jennings yelled at a car driving by.
Demonstrators expressed their outrage with the events that unfolded over the weekend.
“I don’t like seeing Nazis march in America,” rally participant Holly Stamper said, “We fought a war over that and they lost.”
Many politicians immediately denounced the violence and racism.
”My heart goes out to the victims of #Charlottesville. Such display of violence, hateful rhetoric, and racism is an affront on our values as Americans. We must unite,” Gov. Kate Brown wrote on Facebook.
Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley also went to Facebook, speaking out against hate as well as President Donald Trump’s public response.
“These hateful ideas and speech are not American. We are strongest united and when we stand up to bigotry and hate,” Sen. Wyden wrote.
“Trump gets no credit for finally, under duress, meeting a very low bar of denouncing Nazis and white supremacists,” Sen. Merkley wrote.
The alleged Charlottesville terrorist was on the other end of the political spectrum: James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of the Toledo area, was denied bail Monday in Charlottesville; he is charged with one count of second-degree murder, several counts of malicious wounding and one count of hit-and-run. A former teacher reports he was fascinated with Nazism and idolized Adolf Hitler.
Tensions — racial, political, class and other — are tearing apart our nation. Who threw the first punch at this weekend’s clash is impossible to say; but it is clear both sides came prepared to fight. They brandished sticks and shields, clubbed each other, tossed paint-filled balloons and sprayed their adversaries with stinging chemicals.
They came in helmets and makeshift combat gear, like a scene out of “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Many were injured.
Violent thugs and vigilantes are not who we are as Americans. We need to respond to hate and violence with calls for greater understanding and peace. The anger level in this county has to come down or we will have more tragedies like those this summer in Virginia. Americans always will be political adversaries; we must not be mortal enemies.
But fringe groups spewing repugnant views have been emboldened by a president who pandered to this base to win election.
It’s not who we are as Oregonians and Americans.
The president of the United States is supposed to be, in part, consoler-in-chief. So it’s hard to not compare the soaring rhetoric of Ronald Reagan after the Challenger tragedy or George W. Bush after 9/11 with President Donald Trump’s vague mumblings right after Charlottesville. Trump, at first, said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides — on many sides.”
Many sides? For most presidents, this would be an easy call: Condemn fascism and white supremacy. Not for Trump. He wouldn’t answer when asked if he would denounce the white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan who’d descended on this small university town, or whether he’d characterize the attack as terrorism.
On Monday, after a weekend of White House damage control, Trump finally came out saying that “racism is evil,” and “those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
According to the Associated Press, Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush are responding to racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, saying "America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism and hatred in all forms."
The statement from Kennebunkport, Maine, on Wednesday came a day after President Donald Trump said there were "very fine people, on both sides," of clashes that erupted during a gathering of white supremacists and white nationalists in Charlottesville.
The statement didn't mention Trump, a fellow Republican.
The nation's 41st and 43rd presidents borrowed words from the Declaration of Independence. The document, written by Virginian Thomas Jefferson, says all are "created equal" and endowed "with certain unalienable rights."