By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, [email protected]
White supremacists and the standard open-minded citizen are like water and oil- they just don’t mix- which is why Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans (D- Ward 2) had previously considered running a separate train for those marching in the “Unite the Right” White civil rights rally on August 12. Despite the inherent discord and rising concerns with the Black Lives Matter and Shut it Down DC counter-protest on the same day, Evans decided to not have separate trains for the White nationalists.
“Metro will not be providing a special train or special car for anyone next Sunday,” Evans said, according to The Washington Post.
When initial word about the separate trains began to spread, there was immediate outrage for giving the supremacists “special treatment” of any sort.
“We’re not trying to give anyone special treatment,” the Ward 2 Council member said. “We’re just trying to avoid scuffles and things of that nature.”
For now no solid safety strategies have been revealed and the police likely will not relay their plans until the day before the event, according to The Washington Post. In the meantime Metro and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) are working together in an effort to prevent a replay of the violence that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia last year. Jason Kessler, who organized the rally in Charlottesville, is also behind the upcoming one in D.C.
“Transit Police are engaged in ongoing discussions with MPD, the lead agency for the August 12 event, as well as Virginia State Police and others as to how to keep everyone safe on that day,” Stessel told The Washington Post. “While details of the plan are security sensitive at this stage, I can tell you that it has not been finalized.”
Before the decision was made not to separate the trains for the “Unite the Right” rally, the Amalgamated Transit Unit (ATU) Local 689 refused to provide services for a group that champions White nationalism.
“More than 80% of Local 689’s membership is people of color, the very people that the Ku Klux Klan and other white nationalist groups have killed, harassed and violated. The union has declared that it will not play a role in their special accommodation.”
Jackie Jeter, president of ATU Local 689, said “Local 689 is proud to provide transit to everyone for the many events we have in D.C. including the March [for] Life, the Women’s March and Black Lives Matter,” said Jeter. “We draw the line at giving special accommodation to hate groups and hate speech.”
Former U.S. attorney, Tim Heaphy, who did an independent study of the first “Unite the Right” rally and counter-protest in Charlottesville last year, said that Metro was doing “the right thing” when considering separating the White nationalists.
“It’s absolutely paramount when you’re trying to balance both public safety and free speech to enforce separation,” he said according to The Washington Post. “If they’ve decided that there’s a basis for a permit, then they have an obligation to do everything they can to keep everyone safe.”
According to The Washington Post, Heaphy felt the best plan would be to have the White nationalists meet military or police escorts at an undisclosed location outside of D.C. and then be taken by bus to Lafayette Square.
Despite supporting the separation he contends Metro workers are well within their right to refuse assisting in ensuring their safety.
“Law enforcement has this professional obligation to protect speech, regardless of how hateful it is,” Heaphy said, “but transit workers don’t sign up for that.”