The United States was founded on the principles of liberty and justice for all. But for too many Americans, the government has failed to deliver on that promise. This week ahead of the Anti-Hate Summit taking place in Washington, DC on Thursday, a coalition of elected leaders has sent an open letter to President Biden and Domestic Policy Advisor Susan E. Rice urging the White House to treat the summit as an opportunity for action, not just ideation, to combat the growing threat of extremism and political violence.
“States need support from the federal government to respond to white nationalism and political violence, including clear condemnation of the antisemitic “great replacement” conspiracy theory and policies that tackle this threat head-on,” the letter reads. “This support should include stronger laws and enforcement to prevent unlawful paramilitary activity, more training and support for government employees and local elected officials responding to attacks, examination of political bias in law enforcement, improved information sharing across municipalities and agencies, and a dedicated desk at the Department of Justice, focused specifically on anti-democracy and hate groups.”
The Biden-Harris Administration has been vocal about its commitment to cracking down on hate crimes and the need to pass legislation that will further support their efforts. In June, following the domestic terrorist attack in Buffalo, New York, the Vice President convened a group of faith leaders that included addressing hate crimes and gun violence. Both the VP and the President were also instrumental in the passing of the Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act—a landmark federal law that makes lynching a federal hate crime.
This week’s United We Stand Summit: Countering Hate-Fueled Violence Together, is another effort by the White House to “counter the corrosive effects of hate-fueled violence on our democracy and public safety, highlight the response of the Biden-Harris Administration and communities nationwide to these dangers, and put forward a shared, bipartisan vision for a more united America.” The White House says the summit is aimed at convening those around the country who “are working to bring their communities together across lines of racial, religious, political and other differences to prevent acts of hate-fueled violence.”
Despite their willingness to aid the cause, leaders want the administration to push the needle further. Organized by the Western States Center, an organization working to counter political extremism and violence, the letter gets to the decisive steps leaders want the White House to take. “The growth of bigoted and anti-democracy movements is a political crisis that requires urgent action and deep investment from all levels of government and civil society,” the letter reads. It was signed by a growing list of more than 30 regional leaders and statewide business, faith, labor and nonprofit community groups.
The suggestive steps laid out include involving law enforcement in addressing the crisis but not relying on these officials to be the entire solution. They are also calling for the protection and support of all public employees, including supporting law enforcement targeted by bigoted and anti-democracy groups. On the financial end, they would like grants to counter the impacts on local governments.
“We are inspired by the broad coalitions of local elected leaders, civil servants, and community members who have raised their voices against violence and bigotry every day, and appreciate the White House for calling attention to it,” says Eric K. Ward, Senior Advisor at the Western States Center. “But the burden of responding to hate and political violence cannot be limited to local government leaders. Local government requires federal relief and support in addressing our country’s existential threat that is white nationalism and hate violence.”