Workers, Unions Condemn Far-Right Racism and Violence in VA, WA
Labor has come out strongly in condemnation of violence spawned by far-right white supremacist groups over the weekend. Alt-right white nationalists marched on the University of Virginia in Charlottesville Saturday to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. After Virginia declared a state of emergency, cancelling the rally, a white nationalist from Ohio used his car to attack crowds of anti-fascist counter-protestors. Activist Heather Heyer, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, was killed in the attack. Nineteen others were injured, five of them critically.
Gina Maglionico of the Virginia AFL-CIO denounced both the racism of the alt-right and violence toward peaceful counter-protestors:
[Gina Maglionico]: “The working people of Virginia certainly do not and will not stand for this sort of discrimination and hate in our community. Yesterday’s display of beliefs from the alt-right was a disgrace to the citizens of the commonwealth and all that we stand for. Virginia’s working families have fought long and hard to overcome the discriminatory policies of our past, and in order to create an environment of inclusion and fairness in workplaces across the commonwealth. Certainly we will continue to devote every ounce of our abilities to ensure that rights and safety of all Virginians are preserved.”
Despite Saturday’s violence, white nationalists went ahead with a pro-Trump “Freedom Rally” in Seattle on Sunday, leading to clashes between police and anti-fascist counter-demonstrators.
National Nurses United, with many of its members involved in protests against racism and racist violence, criticized President Donald Trump for failing to condemn racial hatred and violence while characterizing Saturday’s tragedy as the product of violence ‘on many sides.’ NNU spokesperson Chuck Idelson:
[Chuck Idelson]: “You can’t help but notice the original statement that came out of the White House trying to equate the racism and the violence from the white supremacists with the people who are protesting in response to that. There is no equation here. It’s a false equivalency. There’s a lot of people that are very concerned with the police reaction…or lack of reaction to what happened in Charlottesville, and contrasting it with the police overreaction in Ferguson.”
Idelson stressed the important role that workers and labor organizations have to play in opposing racism:
[Chuck Idelson]: “Opposition to racism, whether it’s from the Nazis or police brutality or attacks on immigrants in this country, has to be a part of the movement for social change, because they’re connected. They’ll always be connected. That’s the history of this country. There was always a direct connection between the perpetuation of racism and the attacks on working people. You can’t really ever separate them. They each have their own character, but it’s critical, you can’t have a movement without addressing both the racism and the class oppression that exists in this country today. It’s important that people speak out about this at this time, to align ourselves in solidarity with people who are standing up to this horrific ideology. It’s not a time to be silent. It’s not a time for moral equivalencies. This is a very dangerous time in America and people need to take a stand and be heard.”
The weekend’s violence spawned nationwide protests and vigils against racism.