Four years ago today, hundreds of torch-wielding white supremacists, members of the Ku Klux Klan, and neo-Nazis held a “Unite the Right Rally” in Charlottesville, Virginia which led to multiple arrests and the murder of Heather Heyer, who was run over by a car driven by a deranged fan of ex-President Donald Trump into a crowd of counter-protestors. Trump would later remark that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the deadly ideological clash.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden commemorated the 4th anniversary of the Charlottesville barbarity and reaffirmed his commitment to stamping out hate.
What happened in Charlottesville – and securing the promise of America for every American – motivated me to run for president and now motivates my Administration’s work to ensure that hate has no safe harbor in America.
In my first week in office, I signed an executive order establishing whole-of-government effort to advance racial equity and support underserved communities, and a presidential memorandum directing all federal agencies to combat the resurgence of xenophobia against Asian Americans that we’ve seen during this pandemic.
And in May, I signed into law the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act that empowers the U.S. Department of Justice and our entire Administration to address the critical problem of hate crimes being underreported. The law includes provisions in Heather Heyer’s name that will help state and local governments to ensure hate crimes information is more accessible to the public.
Heather’s mother joined me at the bill signing. As I told her on that day, I know it’s hard. Even with the significance of the law being changed, it’s like getting the news of her death just seconds ago. It takes enormous courage. It’s also especially hard on this day of commemoration. Jill and I are thinking about Heather and her family.
The president reminded the public that the growing threats of domestic terrorism from within the most extreme factions of the American political right is still very real:
We must acknowledge what America’s intelligence community has already confirmed, and what Charlottesville and so many other communities know all too well: the most lethal terrorist threat to our homeland in recent years has been domestic terrorism rooted in white supremacy. We cannot ignore it. We must confront the spread of hate-fueled violence in every form.
To that end, in June, my Administration laid out America’s first-ever comprehensive effort to take on the threat of domestic terrorism. We are doing so by countering and reducing online radicalization and recruitment to violence, disrupting the networks that inspire violence by domestic terrorists and hate groups, and providing new resources for communities to build up local resilience against the spread of hate.
But Biden – a pragmatic yet unshakable optimist – stated that with enough will, good can prevail:
While it may come with enormous pain and cost, the greatness of America is that at our best, we meet President Lincoln’s appeal to embrace the ‘better angels of our nature.’
That’s what we must do – together – to win this battle for the soul of America.
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.