ACLU no longer supports hate groups ‘armed to the teeth’ with guns during rallies
A statement released Thursday by three ACLU California affiliates said they will not defend hate groups which want to incite violence or carry loaded guns. The civil rights group represented Jason Kessler, the organizer of Unite the Right, as they were denied a permit before the Charlottesville, Virginia rally on August 12. They were eventually granted the permit.
“If white supremacists march into our towns armed to the teeth and with the intent to harm people, they are not engaging in activity protected by the United States Constitution,” the ACLU statement said. “The 1st Amendment should never be used as a shield or sword to justify violence.”
ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero told the Wall Street Journal that the group will take legal requests from white supremacist groups on a case-by-case basis from now on. They will also employ stricter screenings when dealing with these kinds of organizations.
“The events of Charlottesville require any judge, any police chief and any legal group to look at the facts of any white-supremacy protests with a much finer comb,” Romero said, according to the Journal. “If a protest group insists, ‘No, we want to be able to carry loaded firearms,’ well, we don’t have to represent them. They can find someone else.”
Virginia ACLU Executive Director Claire Gastanaga also released a statement earlier this week defending the organization with regards to representing Unite the Right before the rally.
"But let's be clear: our lawsuit challenging the city to act constitutionally did not cause violence nor did it in any way address the question whether demonstrators could carry sticks or other weapons at the events,"
Unite the Right’s rally focused on preserving the statue of Civil War General Robert E. Lee which is set to be removed.
Heather Hayer, 32, was killed and 19 people were injured when an alleged member of the Unite the Right group drove his car into a crowd of pedestrians and counter-protesters at the Saturday rally, according to police.