Santa Clarita responds to Charlottesville protest

FILE PHOTO: Alex Wheatley, left, and Muhammad Ayers, right, hold a sign together on the corner of McBean Parkway and Valencia Boulevard in June during a Black Lives Matter protest. KATHARINE LOTZE/Signal.

Staff Writers Gina Ender and Christian Monterrosa contributed to this story. 

Charlottesville, Virginia found itself on the national stage after a weekend filled with political violence.

Following the violent protests by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday, which ended in the death of a counter protestor and two police officers, an outpouring of support flooded to victims and those discriminated against.

The clash quickly turned into a violent spectacle between weapon wielding Americans. 20 year old Alex Fields, Jr., who marched alongside the white supremacist group, then plowed his car into a crowd of counter protesters killing one, and injuring 19.

In Santa Clarita, some elected officials and locals condemned the actions of the supremacists and sought to support those affected by their actions.

Elected officials

Congressman Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) posted on Facebook Saturday afternoon calling for unity across the country.

“We must unite as Americans against racism and hatred,” Knight said on social media. “My thoughts are with Charlottesville and, as always, the law enforcement officers keeping the peace.”

On both Twitter and Facebook, Assemblyman Dante Acosta directly addressed the issue of white supremacy.

“No room for white supremacy,” Acosta wrote. “No room for hate. No room for violence. We are one people. #CAunited.”

Extending prayers for those affected while also denouncing the white supremacists’ actions, Los Angeles County Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger took to Facebook to share her views on Saturday’s incident.

“Praying for the victims and families impacted by the senseless and cowardly violence in #Charlottesville today and strongly condemn the hatred and racism it stems from,” Barger said.

On Twitter, Senator Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) addressed the woman who was killed during the protest.

“Heather Heyer won’t have died in vain if we name hatred wherever it lies in wait and dig out seeds of civil violence before they take root,” Stern wrote.

Community members, however, took the conversation deeper.

Free speech

Participants of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville were chanting hate speech and racial slurs to which some feel is protected by the First Amendment, while others strongly oppose that notion.

After the tragedy, President Trump later condemned the violence in Charlottesville “on all sides,” drawing criticism from some for not specifically condemning white supremacy.

SCV Young Democrats President Andrew Taban said what happened in Charlottesville shows a large ideological divide, calling what occurred “domestic terrorism.”

“It’s in an odd way like going back in time in our country and I think it proves that we have not only a lot of work left to do, but just shows what this political climate and this administration is bringing out in the United States,” Taban said.

According to Taban, this issue was one-sided, disagreeing with President Donald Trump’s claim in a Tweet on Saturday that this violence was condemnable “on all sides.”

“There is a difference between protest, freedom of speech and what they were doing,” Taban said. “What they were doing was wrong.”

While condemning the violence on Saturday, however, 38th District Central Committee for the Republican Party Chairman Joe Messina said this was not a one-sided issue.

“We abhor violence in any way,” Messina said. “There’s no reason in the world why people can’t be American. We’ve lost that. We’re not Americans anymore. Now we’re either Republican or Democrat. It’s crazy.”

“I’m not gonna stick up for the president because I don’t know in total what he meant. “But he said the same thing I just said to you basically. He said that violence in any manner is not acceptable, period. It’s a disingenuous argument when you only call out one particular group at a time and you don’t call it out equally.”

Defining what “hate speech” is would be difficult, according to Messina, because both sides claim that the other is being hateful. Though, the chairman argued that hate speech is allowed under the First Amendment.

“It’s a disingenuous argument when you only call out one particular group at a time and you don’t call it out equally,” Messina said.

Messina argues that hate speech is protected under the First Amendment.

If you want to get into hate speech, who gets to decide what hate speech is?” asked Mesina.

“You have the right calling out the left on what they’re saying as hate, you’ve got the left calling out the right on what they’re saying as hate. So if we apply the rules from both sides then nobody would be allowed to speak at all.”

Similarly, Taban felt that those marching in Charlottesville have freedom of speech. He offered a historical point of view.

“We literally had a war over this. We were fighting Nazis. They do have the freedom to say what they’d like to say, but they should understand that American values are not on their side and history is not on their side.”

When asked if counter protesting such rallies only serves to invite violence, Taban said, “If we’re getting to the point where we can no longer disagree on things or counter protest, we are failing.”

Chairman Messina argued that if counter protesters hadn’t shown up in the first place, nothing would have happened and the white supremacist message, to which he and his fellow 38th District Republicans strongly oppose, would not have been broadcast on an international level.

“You let those idiots over there go do their thing, leave them alone, don’t give them any attention and they burn themselves out,” Messina said.

Santa Clarita’s faith-based community, however, is focused on a different message.


Faith groups

 Various faith groups around the valley spoke out about the violence in Charlottesville on social media and during their weekend services.

Jared Ming, pastor at Higher Vision Church in Valencia, prayed for the people those in Charlottesville and for his own congregation.

“I want to pray today for all the people that were affected by this horrific act of racism that took place,” Ming said. “I ask you to move in our nation, bring healing, bring unity, God, break evil, destroy the work of Satan and release the love of Jesus Christ throughout your church and throughout this nation and throughout this globe.”

In addition to addressing the events in Charlottesville during their service on Sunday, Bloom Lutheran Church in Valencia will hold a candlelight vigil on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. that is open to the public.

“Our hope and our goal as a community is to create as many spaces of love as possible,” pastor Ryan Chaddick said to The Signal.

Racism is America’s most “crippling evil,” Chaddick said, and he encourages people of all backgrounds to come to the vigil to stand up as a “light” amid darkness.



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