August 16, 2017

Hundreds Join Palmer Square Anti-Hate Rally

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A diverse crowd of about 250 gathered in Palmer Square Sunday afternoon to show support for the victims of Charlottesville, Va., and to stand up against white supremacy, domestic terrorists, and hate groups in our country.

The hastily planned demonstration, along with hundreds more throughout the country, followed Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville, where three people were killed and dozens more injured at a gathering of hate groups and domestic terrorists pushing “their hateful message of white supremacy, fascism, anti-Semitism, and bigotry,” according to the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO), one of the organizers of the event along with Fatima Mughal, Princeton Marching Forward, Women’s March, Democracy for America, Working Families Party, Resist Here, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, STAND Central NJ, and other Indivisible N.J. groups.

“Princeton stands in solidarity with the leadership of Charlottesville, and with all of you, in condemning yesterday’s heinous and racist acts of terrorism by white nationalists,” Councilman Tim Quinn read in a statement from Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert and the Princeton Council, drafted with participation from the Princeton Human Rights Commission. “Like Charlottesville, Princeton is a university town working to overcome racial injustice. We are dedicated to the promotion and guarantee of civil rights for our historically marginalized communities, so that we may be a welcoming community that is embraced and strengthened by our diversity.”

An array of posters and signs filled the square, expressing such sentiments as “Racism Hurts Everyone,” “Stand Against Hate,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Dignity, Respect & Justice for All,” “Call Evil by Its Name,” and “Reject Hate and Racism.”

The Rev. Robert Moore, executive director of the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action (CPA), expressed his alarm at the events in Charlottesville and at the tepid response to those events from President Trump. “This was an act of domestic terrorism,” Mr. Moore said, “and for the president to say, ‘We’re critical of all sides,’ without specifically condemning the white nationalists or neo-Nazis, that’s ridiculous.”

He continued, “The white nationalists used violence. That’s horrifying. They have the right under the First Amendment to express their views, even though those views are repugnant to me and most Americans, but to say the two sides are equally at fault is throwing out all respect for human rights and for the dignity of all people. This president seems to want to not criticize these people because they’re part of his base.”

Commenting on the size and spirit of the crowd, Mr. Moore added, “We felt heartened by the turnout. It was a diverse crowd. We cannot stay silent in the face of this.”

Nuclear Threats 

Mr. Moore’s concerns with President Trump go beyond his response to the violence in Charlottesville. Last Wednesday he issued a statement criticizing the president’s threats to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if North Korea continues its verbal attacks against the United States.

“He sounds like the leader of North Korea — not the leader of the United States,” said the statement from the CPA, the largest peace group in the region since 1981.

“Such reckless and bellicose threats make a horrifying situation far worse, and greatly increase the risk that the U.S. will slide into another war, possibly nuclear,” the statement continued.

Advocating diplomacy as the only effective way to de-escalate the crisis, Mr. Moore added, “the UN Security Council just unanimously passed stronger sanctions against North Korea’s nuclear program. We should build on that encouraging diplomatic success.”

He added, “Such an approach led to verifiable dismantling of Iran’s nuclear weapons capability in 2015, and could work now.”

Mr. Moore noted that the CPA is working in Washington to propose a bill that would restrict the first use of nuclear weapons, allowing only the U.S. Congress to declare war unless the country is under nuclear attack, in which case the president could declare war. “This would democratize our process of declaring wars,” Mr. Moore said. “We’ve been sliding towards a monarchy or dictatorship in terms of foreign policy,” he added. “It’s time to update democracy.”

Mr. Moore further expressed his fears that the verbal sparring between North Korea and the White House could result in unintended consequences.

“President Trump doesn’t back down. He just keeps doubling down on this,” Mr. Moore said. “The voices of reason are trying to get him to back off on his bombastic rhetoric, but he acts like a reality TV star who wants to puff up his chest. Words matter. That kind of rhetoric threatening fire and fury moves things in a direction where misunderstandings and miscalculations could lead us to stumble into a nuclear war, even if nobody wanted it. We really need cooler heads.”