Kenosha is Charlottesville

Keonsha is Charlottesville

Urban Milwaukee

Three years ago, I watched with horror the video footage of a right-wing “Unite the Right” protester intentionally slamming his car into a group of people in Charlottesville, VA, violently striking multiple peaceful counter- protesters and killing Heather Heyer. Unite the Right was organized by neo-Nazis, white supremacists, militias, and neo-confederate activists excited about the election of Donald Trump. They marched to oppose the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee with torches chanting slogans such as “Jews will not replace us” and “blood and soil.”

In that moment when the country needed steady national leadership to see Americans through these turbulent waters, President Trump instead said, “there were very fine people on both sides,” thus kicking off three years of right wing violence in America seemingly inspired by the President’s word, actions, and example.

Protesters bringing transparency and attention to systemic inequities have long been the enemy of right-wing extremists. President Trump has shown his contempt, hatred and callousness for the issues driving Americans to the streets in words and actions, most disgracefully when he teargassed peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park to make a clear passage for his photo-op at a church.

Earlier last week, Kyle Rittenhouse headed to Kenosha with his illegally obtained assault weapon in response to a call from armed militias to defend property and businesses. The militias felt the need to defend property because Trump has demanded “law and order” and declared protesters  are “terrorists” who needed “retribution.” By the end of the night, Rittenhouse turned his assault rifle on three protesters demanding justice for Jacob Blake.

Acts of domestic terror fueled by racism and bigotry didn’t begin when Trump took office. But President Trump has normalized this bigotry, allowing it to reach the forefront of public dialogue in our country while he became its greatest champion by embracing fringe elements on 8Chan and Qanon.

Words matter. And time and time again, we have seen how words are the precursor to tragedy.

As Trump called COVID-19 the “Chinese Virus,” Asian Americans faced hate crime attacks.

A Texas man drove more than 11 hours to El Paso, Texas to act on his deep hate and fear of the Latinos. As he claimed he was defending the country “from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion,” he echoed Trump claims that the “U.S. is ill-prepared for this invasion and will not stand for it”. He later killed 22 people at an El Paso Walmart.

As we look at what has drove people to the streets, we know that communities across America are crying out for change. Before Jacob Blake there was George FloydAhmaud ArberyBreonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks. Milwaukee lost Dontre Hamilton and Ernest Lacy. And there are many that we will never know because their final moments weren’t captured on an iPhone. We are facing colliding crises that are leaving Americans weary and desperate for change.

But the enemy of justice is cowardice.

What protesters are crying out for is leaders to acknowledge and act on the inequities in society so we can proudly say the promise of America and its realities are the same. Our leaders at all levels have a responsibility to better the communities they serve. And any leader who fails in this moment must live with the weight of their cowardice and inaction, which is why I march with the Black Lives Matter movement, voted for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, advocate for sensible gun laws and immigration reform.

It breaks my heart to see what happened in Kenosha and I pray for peace. I join the mother of Jacob Blake Jr., Julia Jackson, in noting that a country divided cannot stand. I am ready to be part of the answer and to listen and Bring America Together Again.

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