California ACLU branches issue statement condemning white supremacy

Protesters yell at each other in alt-right rally April 15 at Civic Center Park, while police stand between the groups.
Julian Kilchling /File
Protesters yell at each other in alt-right rally April 15 at Civic Center Park, while police stand between the groups.

The California branches of the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, issued a statement Wednesday condemning the actions of white supremacists in light of the recent white supremacy protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Although the Virginia ACLU branch issued a lawsuit against the city of Charlottesville for relocating the rally, all three of ACLU’s California branches issued a statement titled “White Supremacist Violence is Not Free Speech.” In the statement, they disagreed with the actions of white supremacists and denounced anyone who engages in violence.

“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 California branches of the ACLU said in the statement. “The First Amendment should never be used as a shield or sword to justify violence.”

The national branch of the ACLU published a statement via Twitter on Thursday, in which it supported with the California branches’ press release, saying that it agreed “with every word in the statement from our colleagues in California.”

“We condemn the views of white supremacists, and fight against them every day,” the national branch said in its statement. “At the same time, we believe that even odious hate speech, with which we vehemently disagree, garners the protection of the First Amendment when expressed non-violently.”

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  • roccolore

    The ACLU would never condemn black supremacists, Mexican supremacists, or Muslim supremacists.

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  • D.Plorable

    These stinkers were key to causing all this trouble in the first place, which is what they wanted. The rally had no good reason to be in a place adjacent to congested urban streets and as a result somebody died. The rally could have been held at a much more wide-open space not adjacent to the narrow streets facilitating the close quarters and violence.

    The ACLU are posers operating for the worst elements of the radical–actually criminal– left. They were all ecstatic at the massive violence incited at the Milo event and they were perfectly OK with having someone’s speech shut down just because they don’t like it. The ACLU was just fine with Obama’s weaponized IRS and other agencies denying conservative groups charitable group status and making trouble for their sponsors–while Al Sharpton (who twice incited riots resulting in multiple fatalities) has his organization’s 501c3 apps sail right through–this is supposed to be reserved for organizations 100% non-partisan and non-political.

  • Dave Doleshal

    I am glad to see the ACLU doing this, but I think more clarity is still needed on the subject. I generally am fairly closely in synch with the ACLU on nearly everything, but once in a while I think their take on freedom of expression could still use a little fine tuning. I am usually all for expanding freedom of speech and freedom of expression even well beyond what most people are comfortable with, (which is generally the ACLU position). However, I think there are certain exceptions and distinctions that need to be made which the ACLU sometimes seems not to adequately appreciate. Case in point are at least SOME of the things people are calling hate speech. I would include things like the KKK leader declaring he was “happy” that Ms. Heyer was killed at the Virginia rally, one of the rally’s organizers who effectively said the same thing, and the Missouri state senator who said she hoped Trump would be assassinated. To me, these things seem to be clear instances of condoning violence, encouraging violence, and inciting violence. Anything that seems to express support or sympathy for such violent acts, subtle (or not so subtle) threats, bullying, intimidation, harassment and such needs to be held to a much stricter prohibition than things that are otherwise offensive, discomforting, rude, or objectionable.

    • Nunya Beeswax

      It’s called constitutional law, Dave. The Supreme Court has ruled in several cases (notably Brandenburg v. Ohio) that hate speech is protected unless it incites illegal action. Your feelings about that are not really relevant.

      “Homosexuals deserve to be beaten up.” : protected speech.
      “Hey, look, there’s a homosexual. Let’s beat him up!” : incitement.

      If nothing else will convince you, you should have a think about how loosening criteria about protected speech will have unintended consequences. If you make it legal for people to ban speech that is unpleasant or offensive, you’re handing them a mechanism to silence you and people like you.

      • D.Plorable

        Big Problem: state compulsion of speech or behavior in state-run institutions OR state authority restriction expression ON A SELECTIVE BASIS.

        In the Morgan Hill flag case the ACLU refused to come to the aid of white (minority) students suspended for donning US flag T-shirts after the (majority) Mexican students paraded around the campus with a Mexican flag on Cinco de Mayo and then threatened the whites after they donned the t-shirts. The usual judiciacrats ruled that the whites had no right to expression and were subject to the whims of “in loco parentis” which in this case was a Mexican administrator!

        In the Byron CA prayer in school case non-Muslims were compelled to don Muslim garb and say Muslim prayers in a public school under the cover of “cultural awareness”. Federal courts ruled against complainants and again no ACLU.

        • Nunya Beeswax

          The ACLU is not a government entity, and chooses the cases it represents based on prudential allocation of its resources. They have to turn down more cases than they take up, because like all non-profit organizations, their resources are finite and they tend to pick fights they know they can win.

          Generally speaking they seem to take up defense of unpopular speech without regard to its ideological bent. Remember the Skokie march, for example.

      • Dave Doleshal

        You are obviously more up on the details of the relevant laws and court decisions about all this than I am. I am GENERALLY familiar with this argument, and GENERALLY agree with it. The way I read this is that there is a great distinction to be made between expression of a belief or opinion and advocacy or encouragement of an action – expression of a belief that someone should be beaten up (protected speech) -which is different than an actual endorsement or advocacy of someone beating them up (incitement). In theory, this distinction is clear and concrete, and, at least most of the time and in most cases, it is clear even in practice. The problem I am having with this is that although the distinction is very clear in practice most of the time, this distinction is NOT always so clear. There seem to be tremendous gray areas in which a person will insist they were merely expressing the belief that someone should be beaten up, but that can as easily be taken by others – such as the potential victim and the people likely to beat them up – as encouraging, condoning, and advocating the person actually being beaten up.

        What disturbs me in particular is that a lot of what I am hearing on the streets these days – both from the neo-Nazi/KKK crowd – AND from the Antifa crowd – seems to me to go beyond the mere expression of an opinion that the people they don’t like deserve to be beaten up – but actually encouraging them to be beaten up.

        • Nunya Beeswax

          There’s definitely a gray area, and it’s the job of the courts to draw the lines. I’ve been pretty satisfied with the way the lines have been drawn to date.

          it seems to me that the plain grammatical sense of the utterance should be given the greatest weight, but there are always contextual factors that can’t be ignored.