Competing rallies at the Lincoln Memorial remain peaceful – June 2017

Washington, D.C.

Richard Spencer held a rally at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, June 25, 2017. He dubbed the event the “Rally for Free Speech,” and despite fears of violence, no arrests were made. Between 100 and 300 people attended. Washingtonian reported that Spencer gave a speech in which he included a call to action: “Let’s meet a year from now. Let’s have 10,000 people. Let’s five years from now have 100,000 people or a half a million people. Let’s march for us.”

Key Players

Richard Spencer, a white nationalist associated with the alt-right movement, is president of the National Policy Institute, located in Alexandria, Virginia. He gained notoriety when, at a conference he organized following the 2016 US presidential election, he shouted “Hail Trump!” — to which the crowd responded with a Nazi-like salute. WUSA reported that Spencer told reporters that although he did not choose the Lincoln Memorial for its symbolic value, he did believe the setting was appropriate. “The idea that he was some great emancipator is a bit of a myth – so yes, I do think he would support us,” he said to reporters.

Nathan Damigo, leader of Identity Evropa, a white supremacist group in the United States, was a headliner at the rally. He previously served in the Marine Corps, but received an other-than-honorable discharge after robbing a cab driver of $43. He was sentenced to six years in prison, and was released in 2014. Two years later, he founded Identity Evropa. The Daily Beast reported that a video of Damigo punching a woman in the face at a UC Berkeley protest went viral, gaining him notoriety.

Further Details

The Washington Post reported that speakers discussed economic issues, white identity, and immigration.

A counter-rally was held higher up the steps on the Lincoln Memorial. There, the crowd sang and listened to a speech by the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor. At times, the two rallies shouted phrases at each other.

A large number of police officers were present. There was no violence between the competing rallies.

Outcome

No Violence at “Rally for Free Speech” at Lincoln Memorial

Richard Spencer’s “Rally for Free Speech” took place at the Lincoln Memorial. Despite the presence of a competing rally, there was no violence.

External References:

Second Marine Veteran Identified As Charlottesville White Nationalist Leader, Task & Purpose

Anti-hate, Alt-Right free speech groups rally on steps of Lincoln Memorial, WUSA 9

You Shouldn’t Look Away When White Nationalists Rally at the Lincoln Memorial, Washingtonian

White nationalists find Lincoln Memorial, and opposing voices, The Washington Post

 

Prepared by Graham Piro ’18

September 18, 2017

Charlottesville march results in violence, death – August 12, 2017

Charlottesville, VA

On August 12, 2017, several hundred Ku Klux Klan members, white supremacists, racists, and anti-Semites participated in “Unite the Right,” a march in Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia (UVA), to protest a decision by local officials to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a public park. Counter-protesters confronted the white nationalist demonstration. The heated encounter between the two opposing groups culminated in tragedy, when a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. Heather D. Heyer, a paralegal living in Charlottesville, was killed, and nineteen others were injured, The New York Times reported. In December 2017, an independent investigation produced a report concluding that the Charlottesville police department had not been adequately prepared for the rally and that this had contributed to the disastrous results. After the release of the report, the Charlottesville chief of police resigned.

Key Players

President Donald J. Trump responded to the violent protests in Charlottesville by condemning the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” reported the Times. Trump’s statement drew criticism from both Republicans and Democrats for failing specifically to condemn the white nationalist movement. White House Homeland Security Adviser Thomas P. Bossert told the Times that Trump did not want to “dignify the names of these groups of people.” First daughter Ivanka Trump tweeted, “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis.” Two days later, apparently after pressure from White House staff members, President Trump condemned the hate groups involved in the Charlottesville protests, saying “Racism is evil — and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazi’s, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” the Times reported. However, one day later, Trump told reporters in New York, “You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now,” according to the Times. He also said, “What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? Let me ask you this: What about the fact that they came charging, that they came charging with clubs in their hands swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do. So, you know, as far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day.”

Heather D. Heyer worked as a paralegal at the Miller Law Group in Charlottesville. According to the Times, Friends described her as a passionate advocate for the disenfranchised who was often moved to tears by the world’s injustices.” The City of Charlottesville issued a statement in response to her death, saying, “This senseless act of violence rips a hole in our collective hearts. While it will never make up for the loss of a member of our community, we will pursue charges against the driver of the vehicle that caused her death and are confident justice will prevail.” A GoFundMe campaign to provide financial support to Heyer’s family raised over $200,000 in two days, according to the Times.

James Alex Fields Jr. is accused of driving his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing Heyer and injuring nineteen others. Fields, who lived in Maumee, Ohio, was charged with second-degree murder and denied bail. His mother told the Associated Press that she knew he was attending the rally, but believed that it “had something to do with Trump.” A former high school teacher of Fields told The Cincinnati Enquirer that Fields was “a very bright kid but very misguided and disillusioned.”

Then-Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia declared a state of emergency in response to the events in Charlottesville. McAuliffe also defended the response of law enforcement from criticism by both the white nationalists and counter protesters. He pointed out that not a single shot was fired during the protest and said the car attack could not have been prevented by law enforcement, the Times reported.

Alfred Thomas was the Charlottesville police chief at the time of the march. He resigned in December 2017 following the release of an independent report that criticized the department’s handling of the rally. The report said the police did not respond to break up fighting in the downtown area. The lack of a police response conveyed a passive stance that the independent report deemed a “tremendous tactical failure.” In a news release, Thomas said he was grateful to have had the opportunity to protect and serve the Charlottesville community.

Further Details

The Lead-up to “Unite the Right”

In February 2017, the Charlottesville Town Council voted to remove Lee’s statue, and also to rename “Lee Park,” where the statue was located, along with a nearby park named for Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Their names were changed to “Emancipation Park” and “Justice Park,” respectively. In May, “a circuit court judge in Charlottesville issued a six-month injunction to halt the removal of the statue after a collection of individuals and groups — including the Virginia chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans — filed a lawsuit against the city,” reported the Times. That same month, alt-right leader Richard Spencer led two marches through Charlottesville. At one, Spencer shouted, “we will never back down from the cowardly attacks on our people and our heritage. What brings us together is that we are white. We are a people. We will not be replaced,” CNN reported.

Spencer later led two marches on May 13, one during the afternoon and one during the evening, which received attention due to the carrying of torches, which invoked imagery similar to a KKK rally. During the demonstrations, Spencer again shouted, “We will never back down from the cowardly attacks on our people and our heritage. What brings us together is that we are white. We are a people. We will not be replaced!” The crowd chanted, “You will not replace us,” and “Russia is our friend,” reported The Washington Post. Spencer also attended the Unite the Right protest in August and was photographed being detained by police. He is a graduate of UVA.

In response to the march, Teresa A. Sullivan, president of UVA, issued a statement in which she said that while the university does “respect the rights of free expression and assembly,” it also “reserve[s] the right to criticize those expressions and assemblies.” Her statement also asserted that the demonstration appeared to be a deliberate attempt to intimidate African-Americans. Charlottesville mayor Mike Signer wrote on Facebook, “This event involving torches at night in Lee Park was either profoundly ignorant or was designed to instill fear in our minority populations in a way that hearkens back to the days of the KKK,” and “such intolerance is not welcome here.”

On May 14, a counter-protest occurred in which speakers promoted tolerance and acceptance, surrounded by signs reading “Black Lives Matter” and “F**k White Supremacy.” Others associated with Spencer’s demonstration showed up, and several scuffles occurred. Police made three arrests, and one officer was hit in the head with an object thrown from the crowd.

In July 2017, approximately 50 supporters of the Ku Klux Klan participated in a rally to save the Lee statue. They shouted “white power” for approximately half an hour, the Times reported. More than 1,000 counter-protesters confronted the KKK supporters, protesting “their presence by hurling insults, water bottles and apple cores,” according to the Times. Law enforcement officials deployed tear gas in an effort to force the counter-protesters to disperse. “City officials and church leaders had asked residents to stay away from the rally. Concerts and other events were planned to encourage residents to spend the day elsewhere,” the Times said.

On August 11, 2017, a day before the Unite the Right rally, a judge in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Charlottesville division, granted an injunction allowing the event to be held in Emancipation (formerly Lee) Park. City officials had attempted to relocate the Unite the Right rally to a different venue, McIntire Park, due to safety concerns. While the proposed new location was larger and could accommodate more people, it was not where the statue of Lee stood. Jason Kessler, the event’s organizer, sued the city and was represented by the Rutherford Institute, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The two groups argued that moving the march’s location would violate Kessler’s free speech rights. After the injunction was granted, ACLU’s Virginia Executive Director, Claire Guthrie, said in a statement, “We are grateful that the court recognized that the First Amendment applies equally to everyone regardless of their views,” NBC 29 reported. Her statement continued, “We hope that the city will focus . . . on managing the expected crowds using de-escalation tactics and flexibility.” Mayor Signer responded to the injunction, saying, “While the City is disappointed by tonight’s ruling, we will abide by the judge’s decision. The goal in moving the Unite the Right rally from Emancipation Park to a larger, more accommodating space like McIntire Park had nothing to do with the content of the demonstrators’ speech.”

The Aftermath

New York Times reporter Richard Fausset called the white nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville “perhaps the most visible manifestation to date of the evolution of the American far-right, a coalition of old and new white supremacist groups connected by social media and emboldened by the election of Donald J. Trump.” Additionally, the Southern Poverty Law Center described the rally as “the largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades in the United States.”

In addition to Heather Heyer’s death, two Virginia state troopers died in a helicopter crash the evening of the Unite the Right march. The helicopter was being used to monitor the protests from above. The reason for the crash was not immediately clear, but was being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, according to the Times.

On Wednesday, August 16, 2017, thousands of students and others participated in a peaceful vigil at UVA. The organizers intentionally kept their plans off social media and instead spread information by word of mouth, CNN reported. Participants in the vigil carried candles, sang the national anthem, and followed the same route the white supremacists had charted on the previous Saturday. The same day, Heather Heyer’s mother spoke about her daughter’s death at a memorial service. “They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what? You just magnified her,” she said, according to CNN.

After the protests, Twitter users attempted to identify individuals who were photographed while participating in the Unite the Right rally. One successfully identified a man carrying a tiki torch as an individual who worked for a restaurant named Top Dog in Berkeley, CA. Top Dog promptly fired the man, reported the Daily Mail. Additionally, Twitter users were able to use photographs to identify a University of Nevada, Reno student who had traveled to Charlottesville for the protest. “I came to this march for the message that white European culture has a right to be here just like every other culture,” he told KTVN’s Channel 2 News after being identified on Twitter. “As a white nationalist, I care for all people. We all deserve a future for our children and for our culture. White nationalists aren’t all hateful; we just want to preserve what we have,” he continued. University of Nevada, Reno President Marc Johnson released a statement acknowledging that a student at the school had been involved in the Unite the Right protest. It read, in part, “Racism and white supremacist movements have a corrosive effect on our society. These movements do not represent our values as a university. We denounce any movement that targets individuals due to the color of their skin, their religious beliefs, political beliefs, sexual orientation, ability/disability, or whether they were born in our country,” KTVN reported. Although Johnson’s statement did not identify the student, a petition on Change.org calling for the school to expel him garnered more than 13,000 signatures within 48 hours. The university, however, declined to expel the student.

President Trump’s statements regarding the events in Charlottesville prompted many prominent business executives to resign from the his business advisory councils. Inge Thulin, chairman and chief executive of 3M, announced his resignation from the Manufacturing Council, saying “the initiative is no longer an effective vehicle for 3M to advance its goals,” NBC News reported. Soon Denise Morrison, president and chief executive of Campbell Soup, resigned as well. Reacting to Trump’s comments at the news conference in New York, Morrison said, “Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville.” On April 16, Trump announced via Twitter that he was dissolving both the Manufacturing Council and the Strategy and Policy Forum.

The events in Charlottesville prompted numerous editorials in national publications concerning hate speech and the First Amendment. Some argued that the ACLU ought to reconsider its decision to represent white supremacists, although the organization stood by its actions. “I want to be clear, the violence of this weekend was not caused by our defense of the First Amendment,” the ACLU’s executive director, Anthony Romero, told the Times.

In September, UVA released a report finding that the university’s administration had not adequately prepared for the alt-right rally. The report, authored by the Deans Working Group, led by UVA Law School Dean Risa Goluboff, cited numerous shortcomings in the university’s preparation and response to the “Unite the Right” rally, reported the Post. The report urged UVA to “forge new policies and practices that will prevent it from again becoming a locus of intimidation and violence while recommitting to the principles of free speech at the core of its mission.” Suggested improvements include procuring better information prior to protests, changing certain regulations concerning large gatherings on campus, and improving an understanding of campus rules, reported the Post. In one example of inadequate preparation, UVA campus police failed to enforce a rule prohibiting flames on campus due to incomplete knowledge and understanding of the regulation. Alt-right demonstrators carried torches on Friday night prior to the Unite the Right rally.

In December 2017, Chief of Police Alfred Thomas resigned following the release of an independent report analyzing the Charlottesville Police Department’s response to the march. The independent report was prepared by Timothy Heaphy, a former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia. It specifically criticized the department’s failure to maintain a separation between the demonstrators and counter-demonstrators, a reluctance on the part of the police to intervene in fights, and a lack of overall planning for responding to violence. Heaphy said during a news conference he had heard from a police officer that Thomas had told his officers to let protesters fight because it would be easier to declare the assembly unlawful. Thomas denied that he had made such a statement, reported the Post.

Outcome

1 killed, 19 injured while protesting hate groups

Heather D. Heyer was killed while participating in a counter-protest when a car driven by a white nationalist from Ohio ploughed into a crowd. Nineteen other counter-protesters were injured, and the driver was charged with second-degree murder. He was denied bail two days later by a judge in the Charlottesville General District Court, reported USA Today. Additionally, two state troopers were killed in a helicopter crash while monitoring the protests. A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the crash was likely caused by faulty maintenance.

External References

23 Arrested and Tear Gas Deployed After a K.K.K. Rally in Virginia, The New York Times

State of Emergency in Virginia as White Nationalists March, The New York Times

Our Sister’s Keeper #HeatherHeyer, GoFundMe

City of Charlottesville Statement on the Deaths of Heather D. Heyer, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, Charlottesville Tomorrow

The Statue at the Center of Charlottesville’s Storm, The New York Times

Trump calls KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists ‘repugnant’, CNN

Fire & Expel Peter Cvjetanovic, Change.org

No bail for Charlottesville car attack suspect James Fields, USA Today

A Guide to the Violence in Charlottesville, The New York Times

Update: Judge Issues Temporary Injunction to Halt Lee Statue Removal, NBC 29

Death of 2 State Troopers Adds Another Layer of Tragedy in Charlottesville, The New York Times

Trump Dissolves Business Advisory Councils as CEOs Quit, NBC News

After Backing Alt-Right in Charlottesville, A.C.L.U. Wrestles With Its Role, The New York Times

Thousands gather for peaceful candlelight vigil at UVA, CNN

The A.C.L.U. Needs to Rethink Free Speech, The New York Times

Charlottesville police chief resigns in wake of report on white-supremacist rally, The Washington Post

Charlottesville response to white supremacist rally is sharply criticized in report, The Washington Post

Independent Review of the 2017 Protest Events in Charlottesville, Virginia

NTSB Releases Preliminary Report in Charlottesville Helicopter Crash, The Washington Post

Prepared by Will Haskell ‘18 and Graham Piro ‘18

Uploaded September 17, 2017

Updated January 22, 2018

Trump administration reconsiders legal protections for journalists – August 2017

Washington, DC

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice would review its policy concerning “media subpoenas,” raising concerns about freedom of the press and legal protections for journalists in the era of President Trump.

Key Figures

Jeff Sessions is the 84th Attorney General of the United States. Appointed by President Donald Trump, Sessions previously served as a United States Senator from Alabama from 1997 to 2017.

Further details

In a news conference on August 4, 2017, in Washington, DC, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the US Department of Justice was “reviewing policies affecting media subpoenas,” in an effort to reduce leaks from within President Trump’s administration. Sessions’ comments sparked concerns that reporters may be compelled to reveal the identity of government sources who provide classified or other sensitive information. During the news conference, Sessions said, “We respect the important role that the press plays and will give them respect, but it is not unlimited. They cannot place lives at risk with impunity,” reports The Washington Post.

Additionally, Sessions announced that the Department of Justice had tripled the number of leak investigations since President Trump took office, reports Newsweek. Two days after Sessions’ press conference, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told Fox News, “We don’t prosecute journalists for doing their jobs.” He continued, “the attorney general has been very clear that we’re after the leakers, not the journalists.”

Sessions’ remarks seemed to waver from the Justice Department’s policy, established in 2015, that reporters may only be subpoenaed for information “after all reasonable alternative attempts have been made to obtain the information from alternative sources,” reports the Los Angeles Times. These existing guidelines specify that issuing subpoenas or seeking search warrants for news organizations should be considered “extraordinary measures, not standard investigatory practices.”

Responding to Sessions’ news conference, the director of the Freedom of Press Foundation said, “Journalists cannot do their job without sources willing to talk with them — sources that often put their livelihoods at risk in order to get information to the public. And the coming leak crackdown has the potential to upend accountability journalism in the Trump era,” reports Newsweek.

On August 9, the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune warned Sessions to “Back off.” The editorial criticized any policy revision that would place journalists in legal jeopardy for publishing leaked material. “Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia have laws granting journalists some protection against being required to testify [regarding a source’s identity], but the federal government doesn’t,” according to the Tribune.

Sessions’ press conference took place in the wake of numerous leaks concerning the Trump campaign’s contact with Russian government officials and a subsequent investigation into the matter by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. On Twitter, the President called the leaks “illegal,” and said they “must stop.”

Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project reacted to Sessions’ announcement by saying, “Every American should be concerned about the Trump administration’s threat to step up its efforts against whistleblowers and journalists. A crackdown on leaks is a crackdown on the free press and on democracy as a whole.” He continued, “our founders understood that democracy depends on an informed citizenry, and leaders can’t be trusted to disclose vital information that reflects poorly on themselves. These first months of the Trump administration dramatically illustrate that point. Can anyone seriously argue that our country would be better off if the public received all of its information through official channels alone?”

The Post notes that in 2007, Vice President Mike Pence, then serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, proposed legislation to protect journalists from being forced to disclose their sources. The “Free Flow of Information Act” was inspired by the case of Judith Miller, a former reporter for The New York Times who refused to disclose a government source who had leaked the name of a Central Intelligence Agency operative named Valerie Plame. “As a conservative who believes in limited government, I believe the only check on government power in real time is a free and independent press,” Pence said about his bill, according to Fox News. Pence’s legislation, which was endorsed by the society of professional journalists, was never passed into law, reports the Post.

External References:

In tweet storm, Trump decries ‘illegal leaks’ and asserts ‘all agree’ he has complete power to pardon, The Washington Post

Jeff Sessions might subpoena journalists to reveal leakers. Mike Pence once fought against that, The Washington Post

Trump administration threatens freedom of the press in new leaks crackdown, Newsweek

Press freedom and the war on leaks: Back off, Mr. Sessions, The Chicago Tribune

Don’t make the press collateral damage in a war on leaks, Los Angeles Times

ACLU comment on Justice Department announcement on leak investigations, ACLU

Prepared by Will Haskell ’18

September 14, 2017

University of Maryland, College Park – May 2017

White student kills an African American visitor to College Park campus

College Park, MD

Richard W. Collins III, a graduating senior at Bowie State University in Maryland, was stabbed to death in the early morning hours of May 20, 2017, while waiting for a car to pick him up at the University of Maryland in College Park. Sean Christopher Urbanski, a white student at the College Park campus, was charged with first- and second-degree murder and first-degree assault for his alleged attack on Collins, who was black. The Washington Post reported that the FBI was called in to assist with the investigation of the attack on Collins, in order to determine whether or not the stabbing was a “hate crime.” On July 13, the FBI concluded that they did not have enough evidence to deem it so. Prosecutors are pursuing a life sentence without parole for Urbanski.

Key Figures

Richard W. Collins III was a 23-year-old African-American student about to graduate from Bowie State University, a historically black institution in Maryland. Collins was also an Army lieutenant. He was visiting the College Park campus, and he was waiting for an Uber to take him back to Bowie State with two other friends at 3 am, when Urbanski approached him. The Washington Post reported that Urbanski allegedly said, “step left, step left, if you know what’s best for you,” and Collins replied, “no.” Urbanski then allegedly stabbed him in the chest with a pocket knife, and Collins later died in a hospital from his wounds.

Sean Christopher Urbanski is a student at the University of Maryland’s College Park campus. NPR reported that the crime was being investigated as a hate crime due to Urbanski’s membership in a Facebook group titled “Alt-Reich: Nation.” Heavy reported that members of the Facebook group posted racist memes, and that the group was deleted shortly after the news of the murder broke. It was not clear whether Urbanski was an active member of the group. After his arrest, Urbanski was held without bond, and his lawyer did not respond to questions.

David Mitchell is chief of the University of Maryland Police Department. He stated that Urbanski fled from the scene of the crime, but was arrested nearby soon afterwards by Prince George’s County police. Footage of the attack was recovered from security cameras at a nearby bus stop. Mitchell requested that the FBI investigate the attack as a hate crime, but the Bureau concluded that there was not enough evidence to bring that charge against Urbanski.

Further details

A memorial for Collins was held at Bowie State, and the university’s graduation ceremonies included a moment of silence in his memory.

A high school classmate of Urbanski said that he was not a violent person in school, and that he had a group of friends and could have been considered “normal.”

The Baltimore Sun reported that University of Maryland president Wallace D. Loh stated, “We must all do more to nurture a climate — on campus and beyond — where we stand against hate, we fight against hate crimes, and we reaffirm the values that define us as a university and as a democracy.” The article also reported that other incidents on campus included finding a noose in a fraternity house, white supremacist fliers being posted, and anti-immigrant chalking. One flyer read, “It is your civic duty to report any and all illegal aliens. They are criminals. America is a white nation,” reported The Washington Post.

Mitchell said at a news conference, “Anyone who feels empowered by what happened, the only thing I can say is that if you want to harm our students, you are going to have to go through us. We are not going to tolerate any harm brought to our students. Not on my campus. Not on my watch.”

Outcome

No Hate Crime Charges for Urbanski

On July 13, NBC reported that the FBI would not be bringing hate crime charges against Urbanski. Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks stated, “Developing a motive is always a challenging aspect of a case. In this case, and in any other case, you can’t get it wrong.”

External References:

A stabbing in College Park, The Baltimore Sun

Sean Urbanski: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know, Heavy

FBI investigating possible hate crime at University of Maryland: What is the ‘Alt Reich: Nation’ Facebook group, USA Today

Authorities investigating whether U.-Md. stabbing death was a hate crime, The Washington Post

Stabbing Death At University of Maryland Investigated As Hate Crime, NPR

‘We Didn’t Have Enough’: No Hate Crime Charges Brought in UMd. Killing, NBCWashington

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

September 14, 2017

Virginia gym revokes membership of white nationalist – May 2017

Alexandria, VA

Carol Christine Fair, an associate professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, confronted white nationalist Richard Spencer at a local gym in Alexandria, Virginia, on May 17, 2017. After the incident, the gym, Old Town Sport & Health, revoked Spencer’s membership.

Key Figures

Carol Christine Fair is an associate professor in the Center for Peace and Security Studies within Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. She previously attracted publicity following the publication on November 10, 2016, of an op-ed in The Washington Post by Asra Q. Nomani titled I’m a Muslim, a woman and an immigrant. I voted for Trump. Nomani filed a formal complaint with the University alleging that Fair had harassed her online following the publication of her article. Fair finished her criticisms of Nomani by writing, “So again, Ms. Nomani, F**K YOU. GO TO HELL.” According to a Facebook post Fair wrote, in the latest incident, she “loudly” confronted Richard Spencer at a gym in Alexandria where they were both exercising, and he initially denied his identity. Spencer asked a nearby trainer to help end the conflict, and another woman stepped in to defend him.  Fair wrote that she told the woman, “Right now, you’re being ignorant and you’re actually enabling a real-life Nazi.” A manager eventually stepped in to end the altercation.

Richard Spencer is the president and director of the National Policy Institute, a think tank dedicated to “the heritage, identity, and future of  people of European descent,” according to the organization’s website.  In November 2016, Spender addressed a National Policy Institute convention and shouted “Hail Trump!” in a manner that provoked members of his audience to give a Nazi-like salute.  In January 2017, Spencer was punched in the face by a masked assailant during President Trump’s inauguration.

Further details

Fair wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post after the incident at the gym, in which she justified her actions and articulated her specific grievances with Spencer’s desire for a “peaceful ethnic cleansing,” and his comparison of contemporary America to pre-World War II Germany.

The gym did not cite a reason for its decision to suspend Spencer’s membership. Spencer appears to have decided not to sue the gym for doing so..

In the wake of the incident, National Review published an article condemning Fair’s treatment of both Nomani and Spencer. The article positions the Free Speech debate as a left v right conflict. It argues that the free speech rights of both Nomani and Spencer must be defended because otherwise, conservatives are simply encouraging the left’s behavior.

Fair wrote a Tumblr post after the event further defending her actions. She argued that the general manager of the gym is responsible for providing a safe work environment for his employees (of whom a significant portion are minorities), and that allowing Spencer in “undermined” that effort.  

External References:

Muslim woman who voted for Trump asks Georgetown to intervene over professor’s ‘hateful, vulgar’ messages, The Washington Post

Georgetown professor confronts white nationalist Richard Spencer at the gym – which terminates his membership, The Washington Post

I confronted Richard Spencer at my gym. Racists don’t get to lift in peace., The Washington Post

Richard Spencer has gym membership revoked after woman confronts him for being ‘neo-Nazi’, The Independent

Georgetown prof who confronted Richard Spencer at gym not shy attacking opponents, NOLA.com

Liberal Bullies Threaten Free Speech, National Review

“I anticipate being kicked out of from our gym…” C. Christine Fair, Tumblr.com

Prepared by Graham Piro ’18

September 11, 2017

Violence, threats during floor debate in Texas Legislature – May 2017

Austin, TX

Texas State Representative Matt Rinaldi called federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to deal with a group of protesters in the gallery of the House of Representatives in the Texas State Capitol Building. The demonstrators were objecting to Senate Bill 4, which banned the declaration of “sanctuary cities” in the state, where undocumented immigrants could be protected from federal law enforcement officers. Exchanges between the lawmakers became heated, and there was extensive pushing and shoving. Democratic State Representative Justin Rodriguez stated in a press conference after the incident that Rinaldi had threatened “to put a bullet in one of my colleague’s heads.” Rinaldi claimed afterwards that Democratic State Representative Poncho Nevárez had “threatened my life on the House floor.”

Key Figures

Matt Rinaldi, Texas State Representative (R): Rinaldi was elected in 2014 representing a northern Dallas district. When the protests began at around 11 am on Monday, May 29, 2017, in the form of the protesters chanting their opposition to the bill from the gallery, Rinaldi told his fellow lawmakers he had called ICE to deal with them. One Democratic representative said later that Rinaldi had told him, “We’re going to have them deported,” before using an obscenity. After this, representatives began pushing and shouting at each other on the floor. Later, Rinaldi wrote in a Facebook post that he made the claim he would shoot Nevárez in self-defense. He added that he was currently under Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) protection.

Poncho Nevárez, Texas State Representative (D): Nevárez was elected in 2012 representing a district in McLennan County, where the city of Waco is located. After the incident, Nevárez denied threatening Rinaldi’s life. In an appearance on CNN, he said that Rinaldi did threaten to “put a bullet in my brain.”

Justin Rodriguez, Texas State Representative (D): Rodriguez was elected in 2012 representing a San Antonio district. Rodriguez spoke about the incident at a press conference where he confirmed Rinaldi’s threat to Nevárez.

Further details

Senate Bill 4 banned sanctuary cities in Texas, gave police officers the ability to question anyone they pulled over about the individual’s citizenship status, and obligated local law enforcement officials to cooperate with federal requests to detain individuals in state and local facilities. The bill had been signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) earlier in the month. Nevárez later denied threatening Rinaldi’s life. He acknowledged that the protesters had become “unruly,” but maintained that this was because that they did not know the rules of the House Chamber.

ICE did not comment on whether it had responded to the incident. Texas DPS responded and cleared the gallery of the protesters. There were no lasting repercussions for any of the lawmakers involved.

On August 30, 2017, according to The New York Times, a federal judge in San Antonio blocked S.B. 4 from taking effect. Judge Orlando L. Garcia, of U. S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, wrote that “SB 4 clearly targets and seeks to punish speakers based on their viewpoint on local immigration enforcement policy.” He also said the law was unconstitutionally vague, and would foster “arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement against disfavored localities.” The ruling is temporary and is likely to be appealed.

External Resources

A Texas Republican is accused of threatening to ‘put a bullet in one of my colleagues’ heads,’ The Washington Post

Texas Lawmakers Threatens to Shoot Colleague After Reporting Protesters to ICE, The New York Times

Representative Rinaldi’s Facebook Post

Texas Dem denies threatening colleague on legislature floor, The Hill

Republican lawmaker: I called immigration authorities on Capitol protesters, The Texas Tribune

Federal Judge Blocks Texas’ Ban on ‘Sanctuary Cities,’” The New York Times

By Graham Piro ‘18

September 6, 2017

Exercise studio owner criticizes Ivanka Trump, receives criticism – February 2017

Washington, DC

Anne Mahlum, the founder of Solidcore, an exercise studio popular among a range of professionals, publicly revealed that Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, had attended a class under an alias. In a Facebook post on February 9, 2017, Mahlum wrote that she had requested a meeting with Ivanka, and that Ivanka’s father, President Trump, is “threatening the rights of many of my beloved clients and coaches.” She later deleted the post, but received criticism for publicly revealing that Ivanka was attending a class under an alias. She subsequently clarified her statement that she had intended to offer private classes to Ivanka, which had been a common practice with other high-profile clients in the past.

Key Figures

Anne Mahlum founded Solidcore in 2013. According to the Washington Examiner, its first gym opened that year in Washington, D.C., and the company has since expanded to 25 different locations around the country, from North Dakota to Texas. Seven more studios are planned, according to its website. By late 2016, the company employed 16 full-time coaches and more than 100 part-time employees. Its website advertises a “high-intensity, low-impact” exercise, and also lists the company’s exercise studio locations.

Ivanka Trump is the daughter of President Donald Trump. She is one of his advisors and is married to Jared Kushner, also a powerful senior advisor to the president.

Further Details

Mahlum wrote the Facebook post on February 9 and then deleted it the next day. It read,

“What [do] you do when you find out Ivanka Trump just took [Solidcore], but used an alias to sign up for class? You reach out and ask for a meeting. While I don’t know her and I always seek to understand … I do know her father is threatening the rights of many of my beloved clients and coaches and as a business owner, I take my responsibility to protect and fight for my people very seriously.”

Ivanka Trump did not respond to Mahlum’s request for a meeting.

The incident regarding Mahlum’s gym occurred shortly after Nordstrom announced that it was dropping Ivanka Trump’s clothing line due to poor sales. On February 2, 2017, Bloomberg reported that Nordstrom’s announcement was also related to the threat of boycotts of her brand and potential conflicts of interest with her role in the Trump administration. One customer had published an open letter asking Nordstrom to drop Ivanka’s line in November of 2016, to which Nordstrom responded that, “We hope that offering a vendor’s products isn’t misunderstood as us taking a political position; we’re not.”

Michelle Obama was a noteworthy patron of Solidcore, and Fox News reports that Mahlum had previously bragged about Obama’s participation, implying that she played political favorites among her customers.

Mahlum told the Examiner that her post was an attempt to set up private workouts with Trump, as had been the practice for “high-profile clients” in the past. “I reached out to Ivanka in hopes of having a discussion about our community, and to suggest that we set up private classes for her in the future, which is what we have done for other high-profile clients. Ivanka is welcome at [Solidcore] and we hope she comes back,” Mahlum said in a statement after deleting her initial post.

The Washington Post reported that Mahlum took “full responsibility” for the incident, and noted that “It’s important to know that at no point did [Mahlum] say that Ivanka would not be able to attend [Solidcore] classes and service was not denied to her.” She added, “Our clients represent a spectrum of different races, religions, sexual orientations and political beliefs, all of whom are welcome here proudly.”

Users on Twitter called Mahlum a “bully.” An opinion piece published in the Washington Examiner described her as an “opportunist,” and accused her of trying “to score free publicity by ginning up outrage.”

Outcome

Solidcore gym owner clarifies previous statement, Ivanka Trump not denied services

Anne Mahlum clarified that Ivanka Trump was welcome at Solidcore, and that she did not intend to prevent Trump from attending Solidcore classes.

External References

Ivanka Trump Gets Called Out by Gym Owner for Attending Workout Class, Fox News

Solidcore gym founder calls out Ivanka Trump after workout, Washington Examiner

The founder of Solidcore found out Ivanka Trump visited her studio. Now she wants to meet with the first daughter, The Washington Post

About, Solidcore

Solidcore founder faces backlash after revealing that she requested a sit-down with client Ivanka Trump, The Washington Post

Solidcore gym owner is caught in a pickle: ‘Ivanka is welcome’ here, Washington Examiner

Rude: Solidcore founder lectures Ivanka but welcomed Michelle Obama, Washington Examiner

Nordstrom Is Cutting Ivanka Trump’s Brand Due to Poor Sales, Bloomberg

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

September 1, 2017

Festival cancels planned appearance by Rachel Dolezal – 2017

Baltimore, MD

The Baltimore Book Festival cancelled a planned appearance by Rachel Dolezal, whose invitation had sparked controversy in the community and inspired an online petition calling for her disinvitation. The book festival takes place on September 22-24, 2017. The online petition, which asked the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts (BOPA) to rescind the invitation, garnered more than 100 signatures.

Key Players

Rachel Dolezal earned national media attention in July 2015, when it was revealed by her parents that she had been born white. Dolezal, who was then head of the Spokane, Washington, chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), insisted that she identified as black and had not tried to deceive anyone. Dolezal responded to the national media outcry by saying that she “wouldn’t say I’m African-American, but I would say I’m black, and there’s a difference in those terms,” according to a CNN report. Dolezal told CNN that she believes “black is a culture, a philosophy, a political and social view,” adding later that she feels that “race is a social construct.” Dolezal previously worked part-time as a faculty member in the African Education Program at Eastern Washington University. She was reportedly fired from this position after her actions drew national attention. Additionally, Dolezal stepped down as the head of the Spokane NAACP chapter. Her appearance at the Baltimore Book Festival was intended to promote her book, “In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World.” In 2017, Dolezal changed her name to Nkechi Amare Diallo, a West African saying that means, “gift from the gods.”

The Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts is a publicly funded, non-profit organization that offers financial and logistical support to artists in Baltimore. It holds several art-related events throughout the year, including the Baltimore Book Festival.

Further Details

According to The Baltimore Sun, in a statement announcing the decision to rescind Dolezal’s invitation, BOPA wrote:

A top priority of the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts is to listen to our constituents, and after hearing from a cross-section of opinions on having Rachel Dolezal participate in this year’s festival, we had to consider how her appearance may affect both the audience and the other extraordinary authors we have planned for the Baltimore Book Festival. For that reason, we believe it would be appropriate to remove Ms. Dolezal from the festival line up.”

Kimberley Mooney started the online petition to have Dolezal disinvited. Mooney is a middle school teacher in Baltimore and told the Sun that she was elated at BOPA’s ultimate decision. However, Tessa Hill-Aston, President of the NAACP’s Baltimore branch, said that she believed that Dolezal should not have been disinvited. “The biggest problem we have is when we shut down dialogue. We need to learn how to connect and communicate with one another,” she said, according to the Sun.

In February 2017, The Guardian reported that Dolezal is unemployed and is feeding her family with the help of food stamps. The article also stated that she has applied for more than 100 jobs, but has not been successful.

Outcome

Dolezal Disinvited

Rachel Dolezal was excluded from the Baltimore Book Festival, where she had been invited to promote her new book, “In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World.” An online petition had asked the BOPA to disinvite her.

External References

Rachel Dolezal on being black: “I didn’t deceive anybody,” CNN

Rachel Dolezal: “Race is a social construct,” CNN

About Us, BOPA

Baltimore Book Festival cancels Rachel Dolezal appearance after backlash, The Baltimore Sun

Rachel Dolezal: “I’m not going to stoop and apologize and grovel,” The Guardian

Africana Studies Program, Eastern Washington University

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

August 30, 2017

Cabinet member applauds lack of protests in Saudi Arabia, where protest is illegal – May 2017

Saudi Arabia

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross recounted to Becky Quick, a CNBC anchor, that there was not “a single hint of a protester” in Saudi Arabia when President Trump visited there in May. Quick pointed out that the lack of protesters is likely due to the Saudi government’s suppression of free speech, to which Ross responded that this explanation could be true “in theory.”

Key Players

Wilbur Ross serves as secretary of commerce in the administration of President Donald Trump. Ross accompanied Trump on his first international trip, which included Saudi Arabia as the first stop. Previously, Ross headed Rothschild Inc.’s bankruptcy practice for 25 years. In 2000, he started his own investment firm, WL Ross & Co. He sold the firm in 2006 for approximately $375 million. In November 2016, President Trump appointed Ross to his cabinet.

Further Details

The full exchange between Ross and Quick regarding his visit to Saudi Arabia can be found below, as reported by CNBC.

Ross: There’s no question that they’re liberalizing their society. And I think the other thing that was fascinating to me: There was not a single hint of a protester anywhere there during the whole time we were there. Not one guy with a bad placard. Instead…

Quick: But Secretary Ross, that may be not necessarily because they don’t have those feelings there, but because they control people and don’t allow them to come and express their feelings quite the same as we do here.

Ross: In theory, that could be true, but boy there was certainly no sign of it. There was not a single effort at any incursion. There wasn’t anything. The mood was a genuinely good mood. And at the end of the trip, as I was getting back on the plane, the security guards from the Saudi side who’d been helping us over the weekend all wanted to pose for a big photo op. And then they gave me two gigantic bushels of dates as a present, as a thank you for the trip that we had had. That was a pretty from-the-heart very genuine gesture and it really touched me.

In 2016, a report from the U.S. Department of State on Saudi Arabia noted that the Saudi government specifically forbids participating in “unauthorized public assemblies” or political protests, reports The Guardian. “Protesting is a serious offence in Saudi Arabia. It’s been de facto criminalised for many, many years, and specifically criminalised since 2011,” Adam Coogle, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, told The Guardian. He continued, “The stakes for protesting are extremely high. No one wants to sit in jail for ten years because they protested Trump.”

Outcome

Ross Receives Criticism for Statements

Wilbur Ross was criticized for remarks that seemed to applaud the lack of civil liberties in Saudi Arabia. An article in The Nation described Ross as a “disgrace” for his comments, writing, “Wilbur Ross is sending signals that harm the cause of human rights in Saudi Arabia and internationally.

External References

Human rights activists criticize US praise for lack of Saudi Arabia Protests, The Guardian

Wilbur Ross surprised there were no protests in Saudi Arabia, Politico

Wilbur Ross is happy that the Saudis didn’t protest Trump — but he misses a critical point, CNBC

Wilbur Ross, Jr., Forbes

Wilbur Ross Is a Disgrace to Himself and His Country, The Nation

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

August 30, 2017