Lawrence public boards and organizations were right to send letters of support to the people of Charlottesville, Va., and to condemn the purveyors of racism who instigated violence that resulted in the death of an innocent woman.
On Saturday, a car driven by a man participating in a white nationalist rally plowed into a group of people protesting the rally, killing 32-year-old legal assistant Heather Heyer and injuring at least 19 others. Two state police officers who had been monitoring the protests also died in a helicopter crash.
Lawrence city commissioners agreed Tuesday to send a letter with condolences and words of support to the mayor of Charlottesville. The letter was accompanied by a proclamation condemning all forms of racism, hatred and bigotry.
“The acts of racism, hatred and senseless violence in Charlottesville were cowardly and not representative of the values we hold as Americans,” the proclamation states.
The University of Kansas and the Lawrence school district also made statements following the events in Charlottesville. In a message signed by Chancellor Douglas Girod, the university expressed “profound sadness and concern” at the events. A statement signed by the school board condemned “hate speech, violence and white supremacy in every form.”
Charlottesville and Lawrence are similar. Like Lawrence, Charlottesville is a university town and the seat of a county of about 100,000 people. Lawrence and Charlottesville lean left politically (Hillary Clinton outpolled Donald Trump 59 percent to 34 percent in Albemarle County) in areas that otherwise are staunchly conservative. Both have rich histories related to the Civil War.
But it’s hard to imagine what Lawrence — or any other community for that matter — would do if it faced the situation Charlottesville did last weekend. Hundreds of people — proudly professing to be Nazis, KKK members, white nationalists or otherwise aligned with white supremacist organizations —descended on Charlottesville for Unite the Right, a two-day rally that the Southern Poverty Law Center called the largest hate gathering in decades. Many were armed with weapons or torches.
President Donald Trump put blame on those who protested the rallies for clashing with rally participants. Violence can never be condoned. But what kind of community — what kind of country — would allow hate rallies to go unchecked, without someone standing and shouting in no uncertain terms that rallying for white supremacy is wrong?
President Trump suggested Tuesday there were “some very fine people” amid the participants in the rally. Poppycock. Fine people don’t stand with armed racists, and they don’t remain silent. Fine people speak strongly and forcefully against acts of injustice. The city of Lawrence, school board and University of Kansas did just that with their letters and statements this week.