On Saturday, August 12, Americans witnessed the first terrorist attack under Donald Trump. A white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters who had gathered in response to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was an act of domestic terror, perpetrated by a white supremacist. One person is dead as a result of the attack, with dozens more gravely injured. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims of the attack—the brave Americans who put their lives in danger to oppose racism.
Charlottesville was a test—and Donald Trump failed it. The attack was quickly and broadly recognized and condemned for what it was—a cold-blooded terrorist attack—including by leaders from both parties. That is, by everyone but Donald Trump. True to form, Donald Trump failed to recognize the attack as an act of terrorism, and then failed to condemn it or the racism that inspired it. Why is that? Because he helped get us here, through his actions and through his words.
Donald Trump has encouraged violence, racism, and xenophobia from day one. It’s not surprising that Donald Trump refused to condemn the attack as an act of domestic terrorism. Throughout his candidacy, and through his actions as president, Trump has actively used fear to divide communities, encouraged violence against those who would disagree with him, and has advanced racist and xenophobic policies. Here are just a few examples:
- Picked Jeff Sessions to lead the Dept. of Justice, a man with a decades-long track record of advancing racist, anti-immigrant, and discriminatory policies
- Hired racists and nativists like Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon to advise him on policy matters
- Issued a Muslim and refugee ban as one of his first actions as president
- Unleashed ICE officers across the country who continue to terrorize immigrant communities with near impunity
- Insists on the construction of a useless and costly border wall and ramping up his mass deportation machine
- Exploited the tragic death of Kate Steinle in order to go after sanctuary cities
- Proposed focusing the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism program exclusively on Islamic sources—ignoring the dangerous threat posed by white nationalist organizations
- Actively weakened and undermined Civil Rights offices within the federal government, which are charged with enforcing civil rights protections for Americans
- Has publicly encouraged police brutality and the use of more aggressive methods by law enforcement officers
WHAT YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS CAN DO TO RESPOND TO CHARLOTTESVILLE
As Heather Heyer, the Charlottesville victim, recently said: “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Are your MoCs publicly outraged by the events in Charlottesville? Good. Now what are they actually doing about it? Here are four things that you can ask them to do to respond to the tragedy.
1) DEMAND TRUMP DISAVOW NEO-NAZIS, SKINHEADS, THE KKK, WHITE NATIONALISM; FIRE WHITE HOUSE STAFF MEMBERS WHO ARE ALLIES TO THE ALT-RIGHT; AND OPPOSE THE CONFIRMATION OF NEW ONES
We can’t believe this is an ask that needs to be made, but this is where we are. Donald Trump refuses to disavow, or even publicly disapprove of, the racist white nationalist movement that organized the rally in Charlottesville, VA. This might be because his racist and discriminatory agenda have won him the support of the alt-right. It is unacceptable that Donald Trump refuses to condemn white nationalism, and has chosen high-profile members of the alt-right movement to advise him in the White House.
Your MoCs need to help change that. First, they can sign on to co-sponsor H.Con.Res 77, which is a resolution introduced by Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal to condemn hate groups and demand Trump fire staff that support white nationalism. Second, they can shut down the addition of new appointees that traffic in racism. Trump has nominated Sam Clovis, a conservative talk radio host, to be the chief scientist at the Department of Agriculture. Clovis is not a scientist, but he did help fuel the racist birther movement.
Ask your MoCs to demand that Trump disavow white nationalism and fire staff associated with it, starting with Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, sign on to H.Con.Res 77, and oppose the Clovis nomination so additional people with histories of racism are not added to the Administration.
2) DEMAND FUNDING IN THE BUDGET FOR FIGHTING WHITE NATIONALISM
For all Trump’s big talk about keeping America safe, his proposed budget puts Americans in danger of attacks like the one in Charlottesville. Trump’s budget cuts funding to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Community Partnerships, which supports the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program. The program is designed to battle all forms of domestic extremism. But Trump proposed earlier this year, along with cutting its budget, to change its name and mission so that it was exclusively focused on Islamic sources—eliminating any focus on white nationalism. In fact, the Trump Administration cancelled a grant approved by the Obama Administration to Life After Hate, an organization that educates communities on the dangers of white nationalism. In FY18, Trump proposes eliminating CVE grants altogether.
The bottom line: we need a Department of Homeland Security that fights domestic terrorism on every front—including white nationalism—and they have to have the budget to do it.
Ask your MoCs to require that the Countering Violent Extremism program retains its focus on white nationalism, that CVE grants are fully funded, and that a substantial portion of CVE grants are awarded to respond to the threat of white nationalism.
3) DEFUND TRUMP’S HATEFUL, ANTI-IMMIGRANT BUDGET PROPOSALS
Donald Trump’s approach to the budget is simple: defund the programs we need and that keep ups safe in order to fund those we don’t need, harm our communities, and make us less safe. If your MoC tries to argue that there is no room in the federal budget to sustain the CVE program, remind them that the House of Representatives just voted out a spending bill that allocates $1.6 billion as a down payment for the “huge wall” Trump promised at his 2016 campaign rallies. That first year of wall funding alone would cover the CVE program’s $50 million FY18 budget 32 times over. Remember, it’s Congress not Donald Trump that decides what gets funded and what does not. Make sure they fund the programs that keep us safe, like the CVE program, and not Trump’s border wall and mass deportation force.
Ask your MoCs to #DefundHate every chance they get in the appropriations process. See our resource for more information about Trump’s mass deportation force, and some of the other things that money should be used for instead.
4) PROTECT OUR IMMIGRANT FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS FROM DEPORTATION
It’s no secret that Donald Trump scapegoated and demonized immigrants to help him get elected. It’s a tactic that he also turns to now whenever he experiences a setback or a loss and needs to give his base some red meat. That same rhetoric against immigrants has invigorated the alt-right, white nationalist movement. One of the best ways your MoC can oppose white nationalism is to protect immigrant families targeted by Trump’s White House.
Protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programs. Combined these programs provide relief from deportation to about one million Americans who arrived in the U.S. as children or whose countries suffered humanitarian catastrophes. Both are now under threat. If they have not already, your MoCs should speak out in defense of DACA and TPS—but that’s not enough. Congress could take the futures of the 800,000 young Americans who rely on DACA out of Trump’s hands.
Ask your Senators to co-sponsor the bipartisan Durbin-Graham “DREAM Act” (S. 1615) and your Representative to support Rep. Gutierrez’s American Hope Act (H.R. 3591), and insist that they resist Trump’s multi-pronged legislative assault on immigrants