One of the cornerstones of democracy is the right to freedom of expression. One individual or group speaks or thinks a certain philosophy and another speaks or thinks differently. This right is one of many – a basic human right – that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for in the early 1960s and died in 1968.
It is therefore unfortunate that four or five people wearing masks and face coverings chose last Friday – the day before the weekend, we honor the life and achievements of King – to unfurl a “White Lives Matter” banner at the gazebo. of the village of Chatham.
The slogan is a white supremacist phrase that originated in early 2015 as a racist response to the Black Lives Matter movement, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The phrase has been used by groups such as the Texas-based white supremacist group Aryan Renaissance Society and the Ku Klux Klan.
Local activist Michael Richardson invoked the KKK when commenting on the banner. “It’s absolutely no different than three people in white robes and pointed hoods burning a cross,” he said. “It’s exactly the same. This is only a 2022 release.”
Chatham Mayor John Howe said he wasn’t sure how long the group had been there, but said it may not have been much longer than an hour.
“I respect the right to free speech, but I don’t have to respect the message on a personal note,” Howe said. “I don’t think there is room for hate in our community. We have a very inclusive, welcoming community for everyone in our community, a loving community. And that only creates division. And I don’t think there’s room for that here in the village.
The banner gave a link to a Telegram website. A message on the web page referred to the Chatham banner. “We’ve had a great response from some descendants of Europeans within the Empire State who are starting to wake up! Many see that unlike WLM 2015, we are a non-violent initiative that simply represents awareness in the limits of peaceful action. … There were middle fingers and vulgar comments, but it was clear we weren’t looking to hurt or hate ANYONE!”
Since the Patriot Front stickers appeared last year, we suggest these groups are feeling some empowerment and are stepping up a campaign of, if not violence, than the inference of something toxic. Chatham takes action. An anti-hate rally is planned for the village today to protest against groups such as White Lives Matter. Local elected officials are invited to participate. The Columbia County Women’s Alliance is the host. As for the Chatham Group, if it is what they call “peaceful action” they are belittling Dr. King and everything he stands for.