Radio host resigns after being ordered not to criticize Trump – June 2017

Palmyra, PA

Bruce Bond, a radio host in Palmyra, Pennsylvania, resigned after he was asked to stop criticizing President Trump by his station’s management. Bond received a memo from the general manager of the station informing him it was “not permissible” to be disrespectful of the president; the manager had previously asked Bond to cease his on-air political discussions.

Key Players

Bruce Bond was host of the “Bruce Bond Late Afternoon Show on Saturday Morning” on WTPA-FM, which is located in the central Pennsylvania town of Palmyra. He was hired by the station in June 2014, and had previously worked for WNNK, a Harrisburg-based station, in the 1980s and 1990s. Bond was a figure of controversy for his prank calls and inflammatory statements, including one about a fake news story involving a dog being left in a hot car. He was fired by WNNK in 2001, and was then hired by WRKZ, a station based in Columbus, Ohio. However, three years later his show was cancelled, and he moved to New Orleans, declaring that he was not interested in radio anymore. In 2008, Bond was indicted on 65 charges, which included identity theft, forging documents, and attempted grand larceny; he was also accused of involvement in a $4.3 million forged-check scheme. He pleaded guilty to second-degree larceny, identity theft, and possession of forgery devices and was sentenced to prison, where he served two years before being released on parole. The Washington Post reported that after resigning from WTPA, Bond said, “They just didn’t want me to talk about Trump in a disparaging, negative way, if at all … I couldn’t go further with it. …Everybody talks about this guy. How can I do a talk show when I can’t mention what people are talking about out there?” He also said that central Pennsylvania “can’t handle someone as liberal and brutally honest as I can be quite often.”

Tim Michaels is general manager of WTPA. He sent a memo to Bond, who later posted it to Facebook. It read, in part, “I have received backlash in the form of emails, phone calls and such. I have listeners threatening a boycotts [sic] of sponsors and social media campaigns against the station, I have spoken with several parties personally this week that are very angered and have discontinued listening to WTPA. and [sic] are encouraging their friends to do the same.” The New York Daily News reported that Michaels had sent a memo in December 2015 to all on-air personalities at the station, instructing them to avoid politics on the air and online. A second memo, circulated after the field narrowed to just Trump and Hillary Clinton, said not to mention either one on the air. The Washington Post reported that Michaels wrote in an email that Bond had “crossed the lines of what was acceptable.”

Further Details

In an interview with the Daily News, Bond said that he was “walking on eggshells” prior to his resignation. He also mentioned that Palmyra is “a conservative town,” and that Trump supporters had intimidated the station manager. “I stood up to Trump and I’m out of a job. A lot of people are lying down,” he said in the interview.

Outcome

Bruce Bond Resigns

Radio host Bruce Bond resigned from his talk show at WTPA after the general manager instructed him not to criticize Donald Trump on the air. The station manager had sent two previous memos asking the station’s on-air personalities to avoid discussing politics during their shows.

External References

Radio host scolded for criticizing President Trump resigns, CBS News

A timeline of Bruce Bond’s Harrisburg radio history, Penn Live

My apologies to the General Manager of WTPA…

A radio host was warned not to criticize President Trump. So he quit. The Washington Post

‘I stood up and I’m out of a job’ – radio host Bruce Bond on the perils of talking politics in the age of Trump, The New York Daily News

Bruce Bond has quit WTPA due to Trump comments ban, Penn Live

Former radio host Bond sentenced for fraud, Penn Live

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

September 24, 2017

Portland mayor contends First Amendment does not protect hate speech – June 2017

Portland, OR

The mayor of Portland, Oregon, sparked controversy when he urged the federal government to prevent two alt-right demonstrations from taking place at a federal plaza in Portland.

Key Figures

Ted Wheeler has served as the mayor of Portland, Oregon since January 1, 2017. He is a member of the Democratic party and previously served as Oregon’s state treasurer.

Further details

On May 29, 2017, Wheeler used Facebook to urge publicly that the federal government revoke permits for two upcoming demonstrations scheduled to take place in the Terry D. Schrunk Plaza in Portland. The first demonstration, called the “Trump Free Speech Rally,” organized by a Portland-based organization called Patriot Prayer, was scheduled to take place on June 4. According to its Facebook page, Patriot Prayer is dedicated to “fighting corruption and big government.” The second demonstration, called the “March Against Sharia,” was organized by ACT for America and scheduled to take place on June 10. ACT for America is a conservative organization that combats “what it describes as ‘the threat of radical Islam’ to the safety of Americans and to democracy,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. The permits were issued by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), reports Oregon Live.

Joey Gibson, the leader of Patriot Prayer, told Oregon Live that his event would include 50 or 60 private security personnel, many of whom have “conceal carry” licenses. These licenses allow individuals to carry concealed weapons. Federal law prohibits guns from being carried inside federal property like the plaza in question, but according to Gibson, weapons could be carried outside, but near, the plaza.

Wheeler’s Facebook post said, in part, “I have confirmed that the City of Portland has NOT and will not issue any permits for the alt right events scheduled on June 4th or June 10th. The Federal government controls permitting for Shrunk [sic] Plaza, and it is my understanding that they have issued a permit for the event on June 4th,” according to The Washington Post. He also said, “I am calling on the federal government to IMMEDIATELY REVOKE the permit(s) they have issued for the June 4th event and to not issue a permit for June 10th. Our City is in mourning, our community’s anger is real, and the timing and subject of these events can only exacerbate an already difficult situation.”

The mourning mentioned by Wheeler is a reference to a double murder that took place on May 26 in Portland. Two men were stabbed to death after confronting another, who was “screaming anti-Muslim slurs” at two young women, the Post reports. Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best were killed on a light-rail train after intervening to stop the assailant from shouting what police described as “hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions,” according to Oregon Live. A third man was also injured in the incident.

The alleged killer, Jeremy Joseph Christian, had attended the “March for Free Speech,” an event organized by Patriot Prayer in April 2017, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Organizers of that event asked Christian “to leave after he yelled racial epithets and ‘Die Muslims!’ and threatened Gibson,” Oregon Live reports. A photo of Christian shows him giving the Nazi salute at the event, according to the Post.

Gibson responded to Wheeler’s Facebook post by distancing himself from Christian’s alleged actions. “What I say, the things that I say, the things that I preach goes against everything that Jeremy Christian would’ve said,” he asserted on Facebook. Gibson urged federal officials to respect his group’s permit, so that Patriot Prayer would be able to maintain control over the rally. “If they pull our permits, we cannot kick out the white supremacists. We cannot kick out the Nazis. Do you get that?” he said, according to the Post. “If anyone has a sign, a racist sign or anything, they will be gone. If anyone screams anything racist, they will be gone. But if they pull our permit, we will not have that right.”

At a press conference on May 29, Wheeler told reporters that his “main concern is that [the organizers of the rallies] are coming to peddle a message of hatred and of bigotry,” according to CNN. “They have a First Amendment right to speak, but my pushback on that is that hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.” Wheeler’s claim drew criticism from free speech advocates, including the Oregon chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The ACLU of Oregon reacted to Wheeler’s remarks in a series of tweets, saying “The government cannot revoke or deny a permit based on the viewpoint of the demonstrators. Period. It may be tempting to shut down speech we disagree with, but once we allow the government to decide what we can say, see, or hear, or who we can gather with. History shows us that the most marginalized will be disproportionately censored and punished for unpopular speech. We are all free to reject and protest ideas we don’t agree with. That is a core, fundamental freedom of the United States. If we allow the government to shut down speech for some, we all will pay the price down the line.” In an article for the Post, Eugene Volokh, a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, wrote that, “the government may not deny permits for speech because it views the speech as promoting ‘bigotry or hatred,’ whether toward Muslims, blacks, whites, police officers, capitalists or whomever else.”

Michael Cox, a spokesman for Wheeler, told Oregon Live that “it’s not up to the mayor to sanction or not sanction speech events.” Cox also said, “The mayor’s request to revoke the permit is in no way intended to censor political speech,” Oregon Live reports. “The request was made because the mayor’s top priority is the safety of everyone in our city. He believes that this rally is planned for the wrong time at the wrong place in the wake of a horrific double murder and in the midst of the Rose Festival.”

The GSA denied Wheeler’s request that the two permits be revoked. Wheeler responded to the federal government’s decision by saying, “I am a firm supporter of the First Amendment, no matter the views expressed. I believe we had a case to make about the threats to public safety posed by this rally at this place and at this time,” Oregon Live reports.

On June 4, the “Trump Free Speech Rally” drew hundreds of supporters and a larger number of counter-protesters and onlookers, according to Reuters. Anti-fascist activists wearing masks reportedly shouted “Nazis, go home” at the demonstrators in the square. Fourteen arrests were made, and police used Twitter to display the numerous weapons they had confiscated during the demonstration, including “a hunting knife, brass knuckles, clubs, roadside flares, a slingshot and several homemade shields,” Reuters reports.

The rally scheduled to take place on June 10 was cancelled by organizers. Scott Pressler, an employee of ACT for America, explained his organization’s decision to cancel the rally in a post on Facebook, saying “Due to Mayor Wheeler’s inflammatory comments and what we feel is an incitement of violence, he has shamefully endangered every scheduled participant,” Oregon Live reports. “Consequently, in order to ensure the safety of those who had planned on attending, we have taken the decision to cancel the Portland March Against Sharia,” he continued.

External References:

‘Hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment,’ Portland mayor says. He’s wrong, The Washington Post

Anti-Muslim march organizers cancel June 10 event in Portland, citing mayor’s comments, Oregon Live

Trump supporters confront counter-protests in Portland, Oregon, Reuters

‘Final act of bravery’: Men who were fatally stabbed trying to stop anti-Muslim rants identified, The Washington Post

Portland mayor urges federal government to revoke permit for ‘alt-right’ demonstration, on the theory that ‘hate speech is not protected,’ The Washington Post

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler under fire after asking feds to revoke permit for pro-Trump rally, Oregon Live

Prepared by Will Haskell ’18

September 19, 2017

ACLU sues DC area’s transit system for its cautious attitude – August 2017

Washington, DC

On August 9, 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) after four advertisements were rejected as impermissible under the transit authority’s advertising guidelines. Three of the advertisements respectively promoted Milo Yiannopoulos’ book, vegan eating habits, and abortion medication. The fourth ad, sponsored by the ACLU, featured the text of the First Amendment in three languages. The suit seeks approval by WMATA for the advertisements as well as financial relief for Yiannopoulos.

Key Figures

Arthur Spitzer, the legal director of the ACLU’s Washington, DC, office, serves as lead counsel in this case. A graduate of Yale Law School, Spitzer said “This case highlights the consequences of the government’s attempt to suppress all controversial speech on public transit property,” according to a press release from the ACLU. “The First Amendment protects the speech of everyone from discriminatory government censorship, whether you agree with the message or not.” Additionally, Spitzer told The New York Times that, “It’s ironic that a government agency, which is bound by the First Amendment, wouldn’t put up the First Amendment.”

Milo Yiannopoulos is a controversial national figure and a leader within the alt-right movement. His speaking engagements have faced protests on college campuses, most notably at the University of California, Berkeley. Yiannopoulos’ book, titled “Dangerous,” was released on July 4, 2017. The memoir sparked controversy after publisher Simon & Schuster signed a $250,000 book deal with Yiannopoulos in December 2016, Newsweek reports. Two months later, the publisher backed out of the agreement after objectionable comments by Yiannopoulos regarding children and sexuality surfaced. Yiannopoulos self-published the book and sued Simon & Schuster for $10 million, according to Newsweek. Regarding his case against WMATA, Yiannopoulos said, “…It is not for the government to chase so-called ‘controversial’ content out of the public square.” He added, “By the way, my ads weren’t even controversial. They were literally just pictures of my face.”

Further details

In November 2015, WMATA revised its policies regarding which advertisements are permitted on subways, buses, and other Metro facilities. The new guidelines prohibit “advertisements intended to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions…” Also prohibited are advertisements “intended to influence public policy…” These restrictions were adopted after anti-Muslim advertisements inspired outrage in 2015, according to the The Washington Post. In March 2017, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled on the rejection of these advertisements, finding the restriction on “issue-oriented advertising” to be constitutional.

Operating under these guidelines, WMATA rejected several advertisements in 2017. These included an advertisement from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) urging consumers to “Go Vegan,” and an advertisement for abortion medication from Carafem, a nonprofit health care network that specializes in providing women access to birth control and medical abortion. WMATA had previously accepted advertisements from Carafem, but rejected an advertisement for a “10-Week-After Pill” on the grounds that it was “issue-oriented” and “controversial,” according to the ACLU. Additionally, an advertisement from the ACLU displaying the text of the First Amendment in English, Spanish, and Arabic was rejected. Finally, WMATA removed an advertisement promoting Milo Yiannopoulos’ book after receiving complaints from riders. The advertisement displayed Yiannopoulos’ face alongside quotes from journalists, but it was rejected for being too controversial, the ACLU said.

Joining with the three other entities whose advertisements were affected, the ACLU filed suit against WMATA in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleging that the restrictions placed on advertising violated the First Amendment. The ACLU claims that WMATA’s ban on controversial ads is inconsistently applied, noting that while WMATA “rejected PETA’s ad for a vegan diet, it accepted an ad from a restaurant showing a tasty dish and labeled ‘PORKADISE FOUND.’ At the same time it tore down ads for Yiannopoulos’ book, it was running ads for a movie that showed four women ogling a male stripper.”

“In its zeal to avoid hosting offensive and hateful speech, the government has eliminated speech that makes us think, including the text of the First Amendment itself,” said senior staff attorney Lee Rowland in an ACLU press release. She continued, “The ACLU could not more strongly disagree with the values that Milo Yiannopoulos espouses, but we can’t allow the government to pick and choose which viewpoints are acceptable.”

Specifically, the lawsuit asks the Court to compel WMATA to accept the advertisements of the four plaintiffs. It also posits that four sections of WMATA’s advertising guidelines are “unconstitutional because they violate free speech rights, are arbitrarily enforced, and are unconstitutionally vague.” Finally, ACLU filed a motion seeking monetary relief on behalf of Yiannopoulos to replace revenue from book sales that he claims he lost from the prohibition of the advertisements.

WMATA, however, defends its advertising guidelines as “reasonable and view-point neutral,” according to a statement provided to the Times. Since becoming a “nonpublic forum” in 2015, WMATA has enforced certain commercial advertising guidelines that prohibit political content.

However, some of the affected organizations reject the notion that their ads were political in nature. “We’re not trying to sway people,” Carafem’s chief operating officer told the Times. “We were trying to let people who wanted our services know where they can get it.”

“These types of First Amendment cases make strange bedfellows,” the manager of legislative affairs for PETA told the Times. “The government cannot pick and choose who gets to speak based on their viewpoint, no matter how controversial.”

Similarly, Yiannopoulos noted the unusual alliance formed by the four plaintiffs. “I think PETA is deranged and I have been dismayed, to put it lightly, by positions the ACLU has taken in the past,” he told the Times regarding the case against WMATA. “But on this issue we are all united…,” he continued

The ACLU received sharp criticism for including Yiannopoulos as a plaintiff in the case. Chase Strangio, a staff attorney at the ACLU, tweeted that he did not support the organization’s decision to represent Yiannopoulos, writing, “Milo’s actions may not meet the legal definition of incitement but he acts in a world in which people already feel authorized to demean, attack and dispose of the bodies and lives of so many people… He is vile. And I am sorry for any platform and validation that he receives.” The ACLU permits employees to speak freely about their personal opinions, so long as they make clear that they are not speaking on behalf of the organization, reports The Washington Post.

Many former supporters of the ACLU used Twitter to criticize the organization’s representation of Yiannopoulos, according to the Post. One Democratic congressional candidate in Massachusetts tweeted, “I understand the ACLU has to protect the worst speech, but the day they work for Milo is the day I decide to never give them another dime.” She later deleted the tweet, the Post noted.

Spitzer responded to the criticism by saying, “We did expect some unhappiness,” according to the Post. “We always get some when we defend unpopular people. When we recently supported the Redskins’ right to keep their registered trademarks, we got similar reactions, internally and externally. When I went to court on behalf of the KKK in 1990 … we got plenty.” Spitzer’s reference to the Washington Redskins, a team in the National Football League, involves the legal battle over whether its copyright registrations should be nullified on the grounds that its name is allegedly offensive to Native Americans. In March 2015, the ACLU filed an amicus brief defending the Redskins’ right to use the name under the First Amendment.

The Post’s editorial board published an editorial partially supporting the ACLU, but drawing a distinction between advertisements that promote ideas and those that promote products. The Post contends that while WMATA may prohibit advertisements that promote ideas, “it should approve advertisements for all products and services that meet WMATA’s other guidelines, no matter how controversial the views behind those products may be.” The editorial is sympathetic to the cases of Yiannopoulos and Carafem, alleging that WMATA’s actions may constitute viewpoint discrimination.

External References:

ACLU sues DC Metro over rejection of First Amendment Ad, ACLU

Citing Free Speech, ACLU Sues Washington Metro Over Rejected Ads, The New York Times

Guidelines Governing Commercial Advertising, WMATA

ACLU v. WMATA – Complaint, ACLU

ACLU v. WMATA – Motion for Preliminary Injunction, ACLU

Advertising and Retail Policy Review, WMATA

In defending Milo Yiannopoulos, ACLU gets pushback from some of its own, The Washington Post

Milo Yiannopoulos’s book ‘Dangerous’ has sold half as many copies as he claims, Newsweek

Prepared by Will Haskell ’18

September 18, 2017

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