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SAFTU statement on racist violence in USA

The South African Federation of Trade Unions is extremely concerned at the violent demonstrations by the ‘alt-right’ fascist, white-supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the USA, on Saturday 12 August.

It led to the death of Heather Heyer, a progressive paralegal activist, who was killed when a white-supremacist crashed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. Another 19 counter demonstrators were injured.

Despite Saturday’s violence, white nationalists went ahead with a pro-Trump “Freedom Rally” in Seattle on Sunday, leading to clashes between police and anti-fascist counter-demonstrators.

It was inevitable that Trump’s nationalist demagogy would fuel such events as these. He came to power by cynically exploiting the frustration of many white working-class Americans at the loss of jobs and lower wages, by diverting their anger on to foreign nationals, religious groups, immigrants and ethnic minorities. Fascist and racist gangs have now stepped in to exploit the same fears.

It is vital the the trade union movement condemns this divisive and violent campaign, and SAFTU welcomes and endorses the strong denunciation by Gina Maglionico of the Virginia AFL-CIO union federation, of both the racism of the ‘alt-right’ and violence toward peaceful counter-protestors:

“The working people of Virginia certainly do not and will not stand for this sort of discrimination and hate in our community… Virginia’s working families have fought long and hard to overcome the discriminatory policies of our past, and in order to create an environment of inclusion and fairness in workplaces across the commonwealth.  Certainly we will continue to devote every ounce of our abilities to ensure that rights and safety of all Virginians are preserved.”

The National Nurses United, many of whose members are involved in protests against racism and racist violence, criticized Trump for failing to condemn racial hatred and violence. Its spokesperson Chuck Idelson said:

“You can’t help but notice the original statement that came out of the White House trying to equate the racism and the violence from the white supremacists with the people who are protesting in response to that. There is no equation here. It’s a false equivalency”. He stressed the important role that workers and labor organizations have to play in opposing racism:

“Opposition to racism, whether it’s from the Nazis or police brutality or attacks on immigrants in this country, has to be a part of the movement for social change, because they’re connected.  They’ll always be connected.  That’s the history of this country… It’s important that people speak out about this at this time, to align ourselves in solidarity with people who are standing up to this horrific ideology.  It’s not a time to be silent.  It’s not a time for moral equivalencies.  This is a very dangerous time in America and people need to take a stand and be heard.”

SAFTU sends a message of solidarity and support to their fellow workers in the USA and urges them to remain firm in their opposition to both the racist right and the President whose messages are encouraging these fascists to bring violence and disunity on to the streets of America.