Caribbean pols strongly condemn hate, violence in Charlottesville

Caribbean pols strongly condemn hate, violence in Charlottesville
Rescue personnel help an injured woman after a car ran into a large group of protesters after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.
Associated Press / Steve Helber

Caribbean American legislators in Brooklyn on Sunday vehemently denounced the hate and violence that engulfed the City of Charlottesville, Va. the day before when white nationalists and counter-protesters clashed in what has been described as one of the bloodiest fights to date over the removal of Confederate monuments across the Southern United States.

Elaborating on a series of tweets that she made on Saturday, in the wake of the violence, US Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, told the Caribbean Life late Sunday that she could not fathom “in the 17th year of the 21st Century to watch hatred and violence unleashed on peaceful protestors in a peaceful American city.”

She said the hatred and violence ranked “among the lowest of the lows of Donald Trump’s presidency.

“Americans who were doing nothing more than exercising their right to assemble against the hatred represented by the statue of Robert E. Lee in the city’s Emancipation Park was nothing short of an atrocity, and Donald Trump owns it,” said the Democratic Representative for the predominantly Caribbean 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn.

“What occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, was an act of domestic terrorism committed by white supremacists whose despicable beliefs represent the worst of American history,” Clarke added. “These individuals share a fundamental commitment to the violent destruction of all of the gains we as a nation have made in the struggle for human rights and dignity.”

From the Civil War to Jim Crow to the Civil Rights movement, she said “these hateful white supremacists have been focused on recruiting and indoctrinating white men who will focus their efforts on reversing the results of the Civil War, undermining the human and civil rights of African Americans, and other racial and religious minorities – indeed, all non-white Americans.

“Their protest was an attempt to defend statues honoring the shameful legacy of Robert E. Lee, who waged war on the United States to protect the evil institution of slavery,” she said. “I will continue my fight to remove the name of this Confederate general, as well as that of Stonewall Jackson from the streets of Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, and eliminate this insult to the descendants of women and men who were held in bondage.”

Clarke said she was bewildered when Trump initially blamed the violence Saturday on “both sides.”

“Really?” she asked rhetorically. “At best, this was him being totally detached from reality and an honest misunderstanding of the real situation, or, at worst, a demonstration of solidarity with the white supremacists who marched in his name.

“We have witnessed him advocating violence at his campaign rallies and have difficulty denouncing the endorsement of David Duke [a former imperial wizard of the white supremacist group, the Ku Klux Klan],” she said. “We have even most recently heard him advocate for police brutality right here in the state of New York.

“As we mourn the people who were killed and injured yesterday [Saturday] in Charlottesville, Virginia, we must stand shoulder-to-shoulder in opposition to hatred,” Clarke urged. “Notwithstanding Donald Trump and his White House cohorts, this white supremacist mentality cannot and will not stand.”

Speaking Saturday afternoon at the beginning of a veterans’ event at his golf club in Bedminster, NJ, Trump condemned the bloody protests, blaming the “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”

That prompted Clarke to retweet: “Terrible. That man represents the worst of America.

“Your false equivalency, dog whistles are sad,” she said, referring to Trump. “White supremacy is to blame.”

New York State Assemblywoman Diana C. Richardson, the daughter of St. Martin and Aruban immigrants, told Caribbean Life that the “unsavory turn of events in Virginia unveiled a heightened time of racial and religious discrimination in the country,” expressing “deep dismay” over Saturday’s hatred and violence.

“This sickening demonstration in Virginia displayed pure hatred, bigotry and ignorance,” said Richardson, who represents the primarily Caribbean 43rd Assembly District in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, adding: “And acts like this will not be permitted in the cultural melting pot of the 43rd Assembly District.

“We have come too far as a nation and a community to allow this sheer act of intimidation to set the clock back hundreds of years on inclusion and diversity, which we have fought so hard for,” she continued.

Quoting the late South African President and civil rights activist, Nelson Mandela, Richardson said: “No one is born hating a person because of his skin, or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate; and if they can learn to hate, they be taught to love.”

In an unusually very terse statement, New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants and Deputy Leader of the City Council, wrote: “Dear Mr. Trump, at this point, in terms of ‘many sides,’ they are those who do not believe in white supremacist and Nazism, and you and ‘Making America Great Again’ supporters.

“#charlettesville #resist,” said the representative for the largely Caribbean 45th Council District in Brooklyn.

White nationalists had long planned a demonstration over Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Robert E. Lee, according to the New York Times.

But the paper said the rally quickly exploded into racial taunting, shoving and outright brawling, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency and the National Guard to join the police in clearing the area.

Those skirmishes mostly resulted in cuts and bruises, the Times said.

But, it said, after the rally at a city park was dispersed, a car bearing Ohio license plates ploughed into a crowd near the city’s downtown mall, killing a 32-year-old woman.

About 34 others were injured, at least 19 in the car crash, according to a spokeswoman for the University of Virginia Medical Center.

Col. Martin Kumer, the superintendent of the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, confirmed Saturday evening that an Ohio man, James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Maumee, had been arrested and charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and failing to stop at the scene of a crash that resulted in a death.

The planned rally was promoted as “Unite the Right,” with both its organizers and critics saying they expected it to be one of the largest gatherings of white nationalists in recent times, attracting hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, and movement leaders like David Duke and Richard Spencer.

Many of these groups have felt emboldened since Trump’s election, the Times said.

Duke told reporters on Saturday that the protesters were “going to fulfil the promises of Donald Trump” to “take our country back.”

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