SPECIAL TO THE LEDGER
On the heels of a racially charged protest in Virginia and just days away from a “free speech” rally planned in Boston, Gov. Charlie Baker signed and the Legislature endorsed a joint proclamation and resolution denouncing white nationalist and neo-Nazi beliefs.
Baker, Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo condemned the “poisonous ideologies” of white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups and urged elected officials and law enforcement to join them and protect marginalized communities. The document declares white nationalists and neo-Nazis are “menaces to societal order” and “very real threats” to the state’s values, like civil rights for all.
Copies of the resolution, which was adopted by the House and Senate during their brief sessions Thursday, will be sent to President Donald Trump, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer, whose wife Emily Blout is from Lexington. Three people were killed on Saturday as a result of violent protests in Charlottesville that captivated the nation.
“I think it was important that we come together as a government to show the people of Massachusetts that Massachusetts is different, that Massachusetts is a place where we value everyone no matter their color or religion,” DeLeo told reporters. “For us to get that message out today, especially two days before the so-called rally, I think is very important.”
The Boston “free speech” rally has raised safety concerns for DeLeo, who said that while freedom of speech is an important principle, other considerations must be made when people utter racist viewpoints.
“I think that when that free speech turns into questions of racism and intolerance, then it becomes a much different, larger societal question,” DeLeo said.
Organizers of Saturday’s “Boston Free Speech” rally say they are against violence, though concerns remain that those who incited violence in Charlottesville will attend. A separate racial justice march will also take place in Boston on Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center and ending on Boston Common, where the “free speech” rally is also planned.
The GOP governor and the leaders of the House and the Senate, both Democrats, read portions of the joint resolution and proclamation with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito to show they speak with “one voice” on the issue, Baker said.
“White nationalist organizations in our country have consistently promoted values that are overtly racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-immigrant, and these poisonous ideologies continue to promote hatred, bigotry, and violence specifically against individuals solely on the basis of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and immigration status,” the resolution states. “While free speech is a bedrock value for the citizens in our commonwealth and country, white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups promote a message that is the antithesis of Massachusetts’ dedication to civil rights for all, and is in irreconcilable conflict with our foundational principles of liberty and justice for all.”
Rosenberg said it is “unthinkable” that he’d be signing a resolution denouncing neo-Nazis in the year 2017 after what happened during World War II. But hate speech during the 2016 election “opened up these wounds again,” Rosenberg said, adding there is “no bad time to speak out” against hate and bigotry.
“If you see the comments that are coming out of these white supremacy and neo-Nazi groups, they’re saying the president agrees with them and just basically made it clear that he’s in favor of what they’re doing. And what are they in favor of doing? They want to create the second American Civil War. That is not what we should be talking about and doing in 2017,” Rosenberg told reporters. “Mr. President, where do you stand? Are you with the majority of the American people who do not believe in hate and bigotry and do not want to see hundreds of years of progress turn back? Where do you stand, Mr. President?”