WASHINGTON — The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the US Conference of Mayors (USCM) announced Friday that they are launching new initiative to address the intensifying currents of racism and bigotry in America following the deadly white supremacist rally last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia — and after US President Donald Trump’s decidedly equivocal response.
The two organizations launched The Mayors’ Compact to Combat Hate, Extremism and Bigotry, with more than 240 mayors signing on to a joint plan of action to deal with the white nationalist groups that are lashing out now in greater force than they have in decades.
“Charlottesville made clear that we have a lot more work to do in our communities and we can’t wait a minute longer to step up our efforts,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, who heads the ADL, in a conference call with reporters on Friday.
A common theme that dominated the call, in which several mayors participated, was the group’s frustration with Trump’s reaction to what unfolded in Charlottesville. “We can’t wait any longer to act,” said Steve Adler, mayor of Austin, Texas.
Since the rally took place, which culminated in a 20-year-old Nazi sympathizer ramming his car into a crowd of counter-protestors, killing one person and injuring at least 19 others, Trump has repeatedly sought to equate the white nationalists, neo-Nazis and KKK members with those who oppose them.
“You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent and nobody wants to say that but I’ll say it right now,” Trump said in the gilded lobby of Trump Tower in New York on Tuesday, adding that there were “very fine people on both sides.”
One of the mayors on the call said that not only has Trump failed to provide the moral leadership necessary for the moment, but that he has endangered communities across the country and damaged the standing of the Republican Party.
“When the president fails to exhibit moral clarity in times of national crisis, it reverberates across our entire country and it causes fear within our neighborhoods and in our children,” said Shane Bemis, the GOP mayor of Gresham, Oregon.
“As a Republican mayor, I can tell you right now that President Trump’s actions — and inactions — have consequences in addition to adding fuel to the fire of hatred and intolerance and instilling fear among our residents,” he added. “His lack of moral clarity in a time of crisis is destroying a storied political institution.”
The compact itself is a 10-point plan that includes collective commitments to denounce acts of hatred and bigotry whenever they arise and ramp up law enforcement’s resources to tackle extremist violence.
The Fourth Point is a vow to ensure the public’s safety without revoking the First Amendment free speech rights of even the most odious voices.
“Mayors will protect public safety while safeguarding free speech and other basic constitutional rights through the use of appropriate time, place, and manner restrictions,” the plan says. “This might include encouraging alternative rally sites and placing limits on the rights of protestors to bring weapons to political rallies.”
Other points include elevating anti-hate and anti-bias programs in American schools, promoting increased reporting of hate crimes and strengthening hate-crime laws when in specific jurisdictions when necessary.
The announcement of the compact comes one day before the so-called alt-right — a loose collection of far-right groups that includes among its ranks neo-Nazis, white supremacists and others — has rallies planned for at least nine American cities this Saturday.