A characterizing attribute of fascism is the suppression of views and voices.
Enter the ACLU of Virginia. Viewed as a traditional liberal voice for the oppressed and voiceless, the civil liberties organization last week came out in support of the First Amendment right of neo-Nazis and white supremacists to march in Charlottesville.
Since the horrific events of this last weekend, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has spoken out against the ACLU’s position of supporting the march’s location and the ability to have it in such a populated part of town.
“We asked – the city of Charlottesville asked for [the gathering] to be moved out of downtown Charlottesville to a park about a mile and a half away – a lot of open fields. That was the place that it should’ve been. We were, unfortunately, sued by the ACLU,” said Terry McAuliffe, in an interview for NPR.
“I’m angry that – I am angry that this was not moved to McIntire Park, where the city of Charlottesville had requested. I am very angry today because these people, they were dispersed, and that allowed this guy with the car to run through downtown Charlottesville with people everywhere.”
The ACLU has since came out with a response to the Governor’s criticism of their approach.
The group states:
“We are horrified by the violence that took place in Charlottesville on Saturday and the tragic loss of life that resulted from it. The ACLU of Virginia does not support violence. We do not support Nazis. We support the Constitution and laws of the United States. We would be eager to work with the governor and the attorney general on efforts to ensure that public officials understand their rights and obligations under the law.
But let’s be clear: our lawsuit challenging the city to act constitutionally did not cause violence nor did it in any way address the question whether demonstrators could carry sticks or other weapons at the events.
We asked the city to adhere to the U.S. Constitution and ensure people’s safety at the protest. It failed to do so. In our system, the city makes the rules and the courts enforce them. Our role is to ensure that the system works the same for everyone.”
When the ACLU filed a lawsuit supporting the demonstration, it opened up a nuanced argument:
Is it the responsibility of organizations like ACLU or even Uber and AirBNB (who last week refused services to the influx of Alt-Right demonstrators), to make a judgment call on the extent with which someone is able to express their First Amendment rights?
Basic human dignity should serve as the foundation with which decisions are made, not political affiliations.
What happens when the views people are representing (neo-Nazi, Alt-Right, White Nationalism) are defended by the rights they are, in a way, opposing (suppression of minorities)?
The amount of judicial restraint or activism an organization uses when interpreting the First Amendment right of opposing points of view creates a dichotomy of issues that is as convoluted as it is controversial.
It is crucial, however, to understand that as issues like this present itself, political affiliations only further fog the issues. Basic human dignity should serve as the foundation with which decisions are made, not political affiliations.