Local officials respond to Charlottesville “nightmare”


Albin Lohr-Jones/Sipa USA/TNS

An injured person Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia, after a white supremacist rally became violent. Local officials have denounced the rally and President Donald Trump’s rhetoric.

Alan Perez, Reporter

Local elected officials responded early this week to turmoil at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, which became violent and resulted in the death of a counter-protestor.

In a letter to Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer, Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty said he believes “love, kindness, courage, and empathy will always be stronger than hate.”

Hagerty added that Evanston “will continue to do our part to build a city and nation that are united behind the values of respect, fairness, human dignity, and kindness.”

On Saturday morning, hundreds of white nationalists gathered in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Nationalists were met with counter-protesters, and threats and slurs soon turned into punches, chemical sprays and smoke bombs.

A car driven by a man reported to have espoused neo-Nazi viewpoints rammed into a group of celebratory counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring more than a dozen others. A Virginia state police helicopter also crashed while assisting with the protest, killing two.

Several Evanston organizations held events in response to the incident. Northwestern’s Women’s Center scheduled an event next Tuesday titled “After Charlottesville: Becoming a White anti-racist ally.” The event is meant to serve as “an introduction to understanding Whiteness and working toward a more racially just and equitable world,” according to a news release.

State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) said in a letter he had trouble deciding how to talk to his children about the “nightmare” in Charlottesville. Biss took the opportunity to remind his children of their “privilege” and the “responsibility that comes with” it.

“Inside of you lies the capacity for evil that defines history’s worst moments, but also inside of you lies the capacity to overcome evil with openness and love,” Biss said. “I hope you know that rather than wait for some external hero to repair our world, you can take a step toward that reparation, by calling hatred and bigotry what they are, by exhibiting zero tolerance for them regardless of how difficult or uncomfortable it might be.”

In a statement posted on Twitter, Biss criticized Gov. Bruce Rauner for not labeling the incident as domestic terrorism. Biss alleged that Rauner, like President Donald Trump, is an “incompetent billionaire unwilling to name and confront hatred because his re-election strategy relies on appealing to right wing radicals.”

Rauner later issued a statement, saying the Charlottesville violence was “absolutely an act of domestic terrorism.”

Biss, who is running for governor, also wrote in the letter the story of his grandmother’s tattoo, which he said she received after being crammed in a train to Auschwitz in 1944.

Though the “generational distance” gives his children a different relationship to the Holocaust, “it shouldn’t prevent you from learning the lessons of those terrible years,” Biss said.

“Please never doubt that each one of us has the power, through our own actions, to build a better world,” he said.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated when the Women’s Center event will be held. It will be held next Tuesday. The Daily regrets the error.

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