What happened in Charlottesville exposed a dark turning point in America, AFT's top elected officials say in a joint statement. "It is not just a sobering reminder of the very real racism and anti-Semitism running through the veins of Americans, but a call to stand up to the forces of hate and division in this country that feel emboldened today," President Randi Weingarten, Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson and Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker say.
"White supremacists and Nazis now feel empowered to come out of the shadows and inflict terror on American communities. We stand with those who stood up to this racism and anti-Semitism yesterday. We grieve the murder of Heather Heyer and the injury of other peaceful protestors. And we continue to denounce the hate and bigotry that was on display in Charlottesville and is being unmasked in communities across the country. But this moment requires more than simply denouncing hatred; it requires action to protect the basic rights and safety of American families from those who peddle terror and hate.
"White nationalists and fascists marched in Trump's name, yet he refuses to unequivocally denounce them. He has failed to do what any other president would do to reject hate and fulfill his chief obligation to marshal all of the resources at the federal government's disposal to keep Americans safe. There are reports that armed white nationalists are still roaming streets and neighborhoods threatening and intimidating families. Children are terrified. People are afraid their lives will be in danger if they leave their houses to attend church services.
"We call on the president, the Justice Department and the FBI to conduct real, transparent investigations into terrorism from white supremacists. We call on elected officials and law enforcement from all 50 states to use all of the resources at their disposal to keep our communities safe. People in America need to know that laws will be enforced to protect them. White Americans get to presume the laws will protect them, and African-American, Jewish, queer and other marginalized Americans deserve that peace of mind as well.
The AFT has co-sponsored vigils around the country with Indivisible and other organizations committed to safety, tolerance and justice for all Americans. And as educators, we will continue to fulfill our responsibility to make sure our students feel safe and protected and valued for who they are. We have free lessons on civil rights, bullying and helping students cope with traumatic events on Share My Lesson, to help families and educators talk to children about the terror we are witnessing.
"We must stand for what is right, and African-Americans, Jews, LGBTQ people and other marginalized people deserve justice," the statement says. "America is stronger when we embrace our diversity and work to ensure opportunity for everyone, and that is what we will continue to fight for."
[AFT press release]