Earlier this month in Charlottesville, Virginia, white supremacist fueled violence left three people dead after far right activists gathered to “protest” the city’s plans to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee and clashed violently with counter protesters.
These white supremacists aren’t the only purveyors of hate to come out into the open thanks to the space given them by President Trump. There has been a steady rise in hate crimes and hate activity since Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election.
Trump, as we all know, has been hesitant to expressly single out violent hate groups for condemnation, insisting that they are no different than the counterprotesters against white supremacy and neo-Nazi ideology. This hesitancy on his part has earned him an unsurprising great deal of criticism, but he’s stuck with sticking up for white supremacists anyway.
A group of dozens upon dozens of former attorneys general has now joined those calling out the president for his ineffectual response to the hate and violence put on display in Charlottesville and elsewhere.
In a letter sent to the president and obtained by Buzzfeed, 66 former state and territorial attorneys general call on the president to look to Bill Baxley, who served as Alabama Attorney General in the 1970s, for guidance on how to respond to hate groups.
During his time in office, Baxley decided to re-open an investigation into the infamous Birmingham church bombing incident, which targeted African Americans and claimed the lives of four young girls.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, the KKK reacted violently to Baxley re-opening the case, and at one point, Edward Fields, grand dragon of the KKK, sent a “threatening letter” to the state Attorney General.
Baxley wrote back to Fields the very next day, saying:
‘My response to your letter of February 19, 1976, is — kiss my ass.’
Baxley eventually got the perpetrator of the Birmingham bombing incident thrown in jail.
The former attorneys’ general letter to the president obtained by Buzzfeed this week begins by saying:
‘There are times in the life of a nation, or a president, or a state attorney general when one is called upon to respond directly to the voice of hate. As former state attorneys general, we take the liberty of reminding Americans — as we remind ourselves — that events can call out the worst in us — and the best.’
It goes on to recount the story of Alabama’s Bill Baxley, ending by stating:
‘We commend his response to the attention of all who seek to equivocate in times of moral crisis.’
Will the president pay attention to the contents of this letter? He probably won’t. He has been given ample opportunity to walk back on his initial refusal to single out the white supremacists in Charlottesville for condemnation, and he has not. Looking at it one way, why would he even think that he should? Far right radicals make up a significant portion of his base, and we all know how important it is to the president to hold onto his base, no matter what.
For what it’s worth, the American public is clearly on the side of the attorneys general who wrote to Trump. Just last weekend, tens of thousands of people rallied against white supremacy in Boston.
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