The Lincoln Memorial has been the scene of some of the most riveting and consequential moments in the history of our country’s civil right movement.
On Sunday, white nationalists will hold a rally there—something they are billing as a “Freedom of Speech Rally.” But it’s a violent smack in the face not only to Lincoln (who freed African Americans in slavery), but also to Marian Anderson (who sang to there in 1939 because DAR Constitution Hall had barred her performance because she was black) and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (who gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech from its steps in 1963).
Among the featured speakers is Richard Spencer, the openly racist figure who last November celebrated the outcome of the presidential election by quoting Nazi propaganda in German during a gathering just blocks from the White House. According to the Daily Beast, when some in the audience responded with sieg heils, he rewarded them with the words, “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!”
Another headliner for this Sunday’s rally is Nathan Damigo, the leader of a group with a mission to recruit young people on college campuses. Damigo’s star in the alt-Right has been rising ever since a video of him punching a young woman at a rally at Berkeley went viral in April. In a Mother Jones interview, he acknowledged that violence might be necessary to create the ethnostate he so fervently desires.
Happily, the First Amendment that Spencer, Damigo and their ilk guarantees them freedom to promote their profoundly undemocratic, un-American views. Those of us—the majority of Americans—who are revolted by their racist ideology must, in response, use our own First Amendment freedom to speak against those views.
The White House has been conspicuously silent about Sunday’s protest. President Trump has only tepidly denounced the racists and bigots who were so inspired and encouraged by his campaign. He certainly doesn’t acknowledge that his own words have fanned the flames of discord and division.
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