Saturday, August 16, was a heartbreaking and tragic day for the Commonwealth. The neo-Nazi march and the hate and racism that was on display in Charlottesville that day, were vile, have no place in Virginia, and were denounced by Republicans and Democrats alike in our great Commonwealth. This is a non-partisan issue and we need to bring our Commonwealth together and heal. The division, hatred and violence must stop.
As the mother of a University of Virginia graduate and having employees and many interns who are University of Virginia students, it was painful to see what unfolded at this historic campus. It should be noted that most of these marchers were not from the Commonwealth and they had little or nothing to do with concerns about protecting Virginia history or heritage. Instead they came spewing, vile, anti-Semitic, white supremacist rants such as “Jews will not replace us” and “blood and soil” and other openly racist comments. This is not our Commonwealth and it is not welcome here.
Three people lost their lives to the violence that day and many were injured. Heather Hayer, a young woman who lived in the local area, was mowed down by a hate filled white supremacist from Ohio who drove his car deliberately into a crowd of people. Two officers, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, of Midlothian, Va., and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates of Quinton, Va., also lost their lives in the line of duty serving the Commonwealth during the march and its aftermath. Our prayers will continue to remain with these families at their profound losses.
By Saturday evening, I spoke with senior leadership at the Justice Department about the need for a federal terrorism investigation into this case. I was pleased that the Attorney General opened a federal investigation that will have the full support of the Department of Justice. Attorney General Sessions made a strong commitment to thoroughly investigating this case saying, “The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice. When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.” I also suggested to the Justice Department that an entire after action report be conducted so that we would have the full picture of everything that happened that day and so that all those who violated the law are brought to justice. This would ensure that all those engaged in criminal actions would be prosecuted and that we can learn how to prevent any such reoccurrence of such hate inspired violence.
Back in April, I introduced an anti-hate crimes resolution with Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI). The same resolution was introduced in the Senate by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) and already passed unanimously in April. This resolution would condemn ethnic, religious, and racial hate crimes and I will work with my colleagues to pass this measure when we return from the August work period.
Our country is built on respecting the rights of all to have civil and thoughtful discussions about these issues without wielding torches or hate. Despite where one comes down on the issues of the Confederate statues, we should all be able to agree that racism, swastika flags, and bigotry have no place in the Commonwealth.
Member of Congress