U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore
Op Ed

Kenosha Is Charlottesville

And a country divided by its president cannot stand.

By - Aug 31st, 2020 05:16 pm
Jacob Blake. Photo from Ben Crump Law, PLLC.

Jacob Blake. Photo from Ben Crump Law, PLLC.

Three years ago, I watched with horror the video footage of a right-wing “Unite the Right” protester intentionally slamming his car into a group of people in Charlottesville, VA, violently striking multiple peaceful counter- protesters and killing Heather Heyer. Unite the Right was organized by neo-Nazis, white supremacists, militias, and neo-confederate activists excited about the election of Donald Trump. They marched to oppose the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee with torches chanting slogans such as “Jews will not replace us” and “blood and soil.”

In that moment when the country needed steady national leadership to see Americans through these turbulent waters, President Trump instead said, “there were very fine people on both sides,” thus kicking off three years of right wing violence in America seemingly inspired by the President’s word, actions, and example.

Protesters bringing transparency and attention to systemic inequities have long been the enemy of right-wing extremists. President Trump has shown his contempt, hatred and callousness for the issues driving Americans to the streets in words and actions, most disgracefully when he teargassed peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park to make a clear passage for his photo-op at a church.

Earlier last week, Kyle Rittenhouse headed to Kenosha with his illegally obtained assault weapon in response to a call from armed militias to defend property and businesses. The militias felt the need to defend property because Trump has demanded “law and order” and declared protesters  are “terrorists” who needed “retribution.” By the end of the night, Rittenhouse turned his assault rifle on three protesters demanding justice for Jacob Blake.

Acts of domestic terror fueled by racism and bigotry didn’t begin when Trump took office. But President Trump has normalized this bigotry, allowing it to reach the forefront of public dialogue in our country while he became its greatest champion by embracing fringe elements on 8Chan and Qanon.

Words matter. And time and time again, we have seen how words are the precursor to tragedy.

As Trump called COVID-19 the “Chinese Virus,” Asian Americans faced hate crime attacks.

A Texas man drove more than 11 hours to El Paso, Texas to act on his deep hate and fear of the Latinos. As he claimed he was defending the country “from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion,” he echoed Trump claims that the “U.S. is ill-prepared for this invasion and will not stand for it”. He later killed 22 people at an El Paso Walmart.

As we look at what has drove people to the streets, we know that communities across America are crying out for change. Before Jacob Blake there was George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks. Milwaukee lost Dontre Hamilton and Ernest Lacy. And there are many that we will never know because their final moments weren’t captured on an iPhone. We are facing colliding crises that are leaving Americans weary and desperate for change.

But the enemy of justice is cowardice.

What protesters are crying out for is leaders to acknowledge and act on the inequities in society so we can proudly say the promise of America and its realities are the same. Our leaders at all levels have a responsibility to better the communities they serve. And any leader who fails in this moment must live with the weight of their cowardice and inaction, which is why I march with the Black Lives Matter movement, voted for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, advocate for sensible gun laws and immigration reform.

It breaks my heart to see what happened in Kenosha and I pray for peace. I join the mother of Jacob Blake Jr., Julia Jackson, in noting that a country divided cannot stand. I am ready to be part of the answer and to listen and Bring America Together Again.

U.S. Congresswoman Gwen Moore represents Wisconsin’s 4th Congressional District.

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More about the 2020 Racial Justice Protests

Read more about 2020 Racial Justice Protests here

More about the Kenosha Shooting

Read more about Kenosha Shooting here

More about the Kenosha Unrest

Read more about Kenosha Unrest here

More about the Shooting of Jacob Blake

Read more about Shooting of Jacob Blake here

One thought on “Op Ed: Kenosha Is Charlottesville”

  1. Larraine says:

    Thank you, Congresswoman Gwen.
    We need also to pay attention to what happened locally: with the police and sheriffs. Just as in Charlottesville, they signaled to the Kenosha Guard that they were “ welcomed.” They let Rittenhouse
    walk around with his “ long gun” after curfew, and most egregious, they herded the peaceful protesters
    towards the gas station where Rittenhouse and his gang were waiting in ambush. Yes, then MRAPS and other war vehicles were used to block off peaceful means of escape.
    In Charlottesville, the police similarly notified the Nazis, through their paper Der Stormer, before their rally
    that they, the police would not be actively involved. And, the young peaceful protester, Heather Heyer was murdered.

    It ‘s time for all of us to pay attention to our local police and sheriffs departments. They are awash with white supremacists who belong to terrorist groups like 4chan, QAnon and yes- the NRA. If we are to stop this, local leaders need to require ethics oaths requiring cops and sheriffs to swear allegiance to US and to forbid them from belonging to violent terrorist organizations.

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