Baltimore rallies against hate and violence
The white supremacists stood in a circle in the Charlottesville park, hoodless but waving Confederate and Nazi flags and posters of the cross, chanting in booming unison “Fuck you, faggots.” They were surrounded by counter-protesters but separated from them by two fences, yellow police tape, and a wall of stone-faced police in their lime green vests. A Huffington Post reporter captured the moment in a tweet: “You heard that right. They’re chanting “Fuck you faggots.” 2017. #Charlottesville”
After hundreds of white supremacists and neo-Nazis descended on Charlottesville and wreaked a night and a day of brutal hatred and terror, Baltimore and the rest of the nation struggled to quickly deal with the fallout. Last Sunday evening, to close out that horrific weekend on an active and salving note, over a thousand Baltimoreans came together in Wyman Park Dell in solidarity and in defiance. They marched up St. Paul Street and down Charles, pledging to continue the fight against hatred, bigotry, and all forms of both symbolic and systematic oppression. Chants of “Black lives matter,” “Muslims lives matter,” and “Trans lives matter” wafted in the Baltimore air. Mayor Catherine Pugh called for her administration to move forward with the removal of Confederate statues in the city, and the Baltimore City Council voted unanimously to pass a resolution calling for the immediate destruction of all Confederate monuments. And we all tried once again, both individually and collectively, to wrestle with the darker side of our 2017 political reality: a president sits in the Oval Office who refuses to denounce the white supremacy and racism for the domestic terrorism that it is.
The brutal and murderous weekend in downstate Virginia has burnished images in our collective minds’ eye which haunt us and will not be forgotten.
Ostensibly organized in protest of the Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park, the white nationalist organization and other right-wing groups initially stunned the nation with a surprise rally after dark the night before Saturday’s planned protest. Without warning, they swarmed onto University of Virginia’s campus that night bearing hundreds of lit tiki torches high, evoking images of KKK rallies of old and beating anti-protestors with clubs. Camera phones of unsuspecting witnesses quickly went viral which captured the hate-filled invectives as they chanted “White lives matter” and “You (Jews) will not replace us.”
On Saturday, hundreds of emboldened white supremacists and alt-right extremist, giving Nazi salutes and shouting “Sieg Heil” or “Sieg Trump” continued their hate-filled march and attacks, in scenes which a transfixed nation watched playing out on their phones and television screens. For what seemed like an eternity the police were seen protecting these protesters and not intervening in the confrontations, and one was left wondering what alternate reality would be playing out if the white supremacists were instead a group of African-American, Muslim, or LGBT advocates. Of course the violence tragically culminated as the driver plowed his car into the street of anti-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and inuring 19 others. The white supremacists had thus committed an act of domestic terror.
The violent extremism and bitter hatred of the other is nothing new under our sun. But Donald Trump notwithstanding, the hatred and the bigotry in Charlottesville did not come from groups “from many sides.” It is not a battle of morally equivalent world views, although that specious argument is the basis for many alternative facts from the alt right. The white supremacists are emboldened and waging this battle because they believe that so many of us are Less Than – less than human, less than valuable, less than true Americans. They chant without shame of their desire for the “rest of us” – African-Americans, Jews, Muslims, gays, immigrants, the disabled, leftists, environmentalists – to just disappear from their America (by any and every means) or at the very least stay silent and humbly in our subservient place. The history they want to preserve is the history of white supremacy. But this history is steeped in the blood, plunder, and enslavement which we engaged in from the moment we landed on these Native American shores.
Perhaps this is just too painful to admit. James Baldwin once stated, “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”
We must deal with this pain, together.
We the LGBT community must stand in solidarity with all of the minority groups who are the target of the anger and hatred of those who have been emboldened by Donald Trump’s reckless and intentional language to come out into the light. They are here with a vengeance. But we are here, too, standing our ground. As GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis summed it up, “GLAAD and countless LGBTQ Americans stand firmly together with other marginalized communities to denounce these disgusting threats and cowardly fear tactics. To the young Americans in Charlottesville who are LGBTQ or people of color: You are loved and you are perfect the way you are.”