I spent the better part of this past decade living within an hour of Charlottesville, Virginia; it’s a beautiful town that is home to many of my close friends and that holds many fond memories. To hear the name of this town become synonymous with hatred and violence is a startling and distressing turn of events.

I’ve never been blind to the racial issues boiling under the surface of daily life in Virginia, its impossible to miss. Virginia certainly has a long way to go to address the deeply rooted racial injustices of its past. Still I never thought there would come a day that a group of people would openly march under Nazi flags in that small college town.

As people are discussing the events of the past weekend I keep hearing from conservative pundits and alt-right sympathizers that it was just a demonstration against removing a confederate statue. Now to be completely fair I can actually make an argument for the preservation of Confederate monuments, and I do believe that it is within the rights of US citizens to peacefully assemble and protest. However these weren’t just a bunch of historians protecting our heritage. Specific hate groups started sponsoring and promoting the event and rapidly took over its purpose.

They even named it “Unite the Right” and the purpose as listed on the alt-right websites I visited listed nothing about the statue and everything about standing up against POC, Jews (referred to in derogatory names) and to promote white supremacy.

So protester who is claiming you were there about the statue answer these questions please:

If you want to claim that you weren’t aware of your protest being over taken by white supremacists, how do your actions show that you didn’t approve of them being there? If you were really there about ONLY the statue why didn’t YOU stand up and ask the Nazis to leave? Why didn’t YOU make it clear they weren’t welcome? If they refused to leave or didn’t want to confront them why didn’t you leave to avoid being associated with them?

Anyone who stayed at that protest after the tiki torch march the night before where idiots chanted racist and antisemitic hate speech knew full well who was marching with them on Saturday and chose to be complicit in their hate.

We are guaranteed the right to hold whatever opinions we want in this country. Even if I think your opinion is morally repugnant and evil, the government has no right to stop you from expressing those beliefs. You are allowed to be a hateful bastard in this country without fear of legal action from the government. That said your friends, community, employer ect. very well may have other consequences for you and your free speech doesn’t protect you from them.

Also the moment you stop following police direction and start using violence against others it has stopped being a legal protest. These groups refused to follow police orders as early as Saturday night, and continued into the morning. Long before there was a car into a crowd, there was violence from the alt-right toward the counter-protest.

While the initial and indeed the VAST majority of the blame for the chaos and violence on Saturday rest squarely on the shoulders of the white supremacist protesters that doesn’t mean that all of the counter protesters are completely blameless either.

While the initial and most deadly violence was caused by the Neo-Nazi side, “antifa” also used violence. If we are going to condemn the violence on one side we also must condemn the violence on the other. Even a few people using violence from allows the “many sides” comment to be made and gives people like the President room to legitimize the resistance. (more on that and the President’s response in a separate post)

This is where the let’s go “punch a Nazi” memes have angered me. While I understand the impulse to WANT to punch racist ass holes, that isn’t how our society was built. No matter how repugnant they have a right to SAY hateful things, and the government has to let them. It’s the government’s responsibility through law enforcement to keep that speech from becoming action. When we step up and try to take vigilante justice not only are we sinking to their level but we could possibly be putting law enforcement into a position where they have to defend these racist jerks because we’re the ones breaking the law.

It’s our job to use our own rights to peacefully and legally combat these idiots with our own rights of free speech. There are peaceful ways to disrupt racist rallies, and we HAVE to focus on that. As difficult and arguably unfair as it may be we have to be beyond reproach as we combat intolerance. It’s a hard road but going backwards into hate isn’t an option I’m willing to let happen.

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