The Klan announced a “victory parade” at the news that Donald Trump would be the next president of the United States. After all, Trump gave the rhetoric of hate a home at the center of his campaign. He made blanket statements describing Mexicans as “rapists,” and described Mexico itself as “our enemy.” Trump refused to condemn David Duke, America’s most famous “ex” Klansman, as Duke campaigned for Trump with the admonishment to white nationalists that voting for anyone other than Trump is “really treason to your [white] heritage.” And of course the Klan hadn’t forgotten that Donald Trump’s own father was arrested at a KKK rally in New York in 1927.
A wave of hate-fueled violence continues to spread across America in the wake of Trump’s election, as radical hate groups are energized by their newly elected leadership that has normalized bigotry against minorities, women, and the LGBTQ community through speech and policy.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has described the aftermath of the election as “The Year in Hate and Extremism”:
A surge in right-wing populism, stemming from the long-unfolding effects of globalization and the movements of capital and labor that it spawned, brought a man many considered to be a racist, misogynist and xenophobe into the most powerful political office in the world.
He kicked off the campaign with a speech vilifying Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers. He retweeted white supremacist messages, including one that falsely claimed that black people were responsible for 80% of the murders of whites. He credentialed racist media personalities even while barring a serious outlet like The Washington Post, went on a radio show hosted by a rabid conspiracy theorist named Alex Jones, and said that Muslims should be banned from entering the country. He seemed to encourage violence against black protesters at his rallies, suggesting that he would pay the legal fees of anyone charged as a result.
On Saturday, August 12, 2017, a white nationalist group staged a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that turned bloody and resulted in the death of a counter-protestor as a self-avowed admirer of Hitler drove his vehicle directly into a crowd of anti-hate demonstrators.
The residents of Durham responded last night. In the wake of the bloodshed in Charlottesville, a group of activists decided that it was time for a confederate statue that had cast its heavy shadow across the center of our town for nearly a century, to come down.
According to the Durham Sheriff’s Office, arrests will be forthcoming.
There are times in history when we have to choose sides, and use whatever tools we have at our disposal to help bend the arc of the universe toward justice.
As a criminal defense attorney in Durham, North Carolina who began my career as a public defender in Washington, DC, I still view my role as that of a foot soldier in the war against encroaching fascism and the normalization of hate in America.
If you are arrested in connection with a civil rights demonstration in Durham, NC, I am offering pro bono representation on select cases. Give me a call at (919) 899-9404.
– Ben Hiltzheimer