By Jennifer L. Warren
BEACON – The danger we face now in 2021-not just 75 years ago- is very real. It’s a frightening reality that Rabbi Brent Chaim Spodek, from Beacon Hebrew Alliance elaborated upon in his opening remarks Thursday evening.
“According to the FBI, Armed Right Wing groups pose a bigger threat to U.S. Democracy and rule of law than any organized crime group, and have killed more Americans in recent years than foreign terrorists,” affirmed Rabbi Brent, as he virtually addressed attendees at a special event titled, “Fighting White Supremacy – From Charlottesville to Capitol Hill,” commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The hour-long collaborative meeting, fusing Rabbi Brent and Vassar Professor, Taneisha N. Means with the Integrity First for America (IFA) movement, focused not only on remembering the millions that were senselessly and brutally murdered during the Holocaust but on lingering present-day incidents involving similar white supremacy activities. Specifically, the ZOOM event discussed the intricacies of the upcoming, potentially groundbreaking October court case regarding blatant white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. Now, four years later, and in the wake of ongoing, calculated supremacist attacks, such as those at Capitol Hill as well as an upsurge in hate crimes and domestic terror, tangible action is taking place as outlined by Amy Spitalnick, Executive Director of Integrity First for America.
The lawsuit, titled Sines vs. Kessler, with the help of five law agencies, takes on the leaders of the meticulously calculated Charlottesville White Supremacist attack at a college, synagogue and town. A two day affair of devastating violence and irreparable damage, the pre-planned attacks still remain ingrained in Spitalnick’s memory.
“I still feel it all viscerally,” Spitalnick recalled about the Neo-Nazi attacks, laden with beatings, torchings and unwavering anger. “People had to shelter in place, and it’s important to know, this was all meticulously pre-planned, and also was the manifestation of things happening many years before.”
Countless people were injured during the weekend of bloodshed, while one woman lost her life when a car, used as a weapon, plowed her down on a crowded street. Protestors on that second “advertised” day not only wanted to express their anger over the removal of a Confederate Monument, but also sheer hatred, specifically anti-semitism, when they intentionally disrupted a Sabbath at the Temple, shouting, “Torch Jewish Monsters.”
“This lawsuit is all about how these actions are not permissible; we do have the tools and the recourse to fight back, and we should use them,” said Spitalnick. “The whole crux of this case is that this was not an accident, but pre-planned, down to every detail, a violent, racist conspiracy.”
Equipped with such legal weapons as The Klu Klux Clan Act-protecting Civil Rights, Spitalnick and her “legal team” as well as “extremely brave plaintiffs,” are making promising headway as they approach the fall court date.
“The court case is having a major impact, and is serving as a deterrent in many ways,” affirmed Spitalnick, “They (white supremacists) are already feeling legal and financial consequences, and making threats to avoid accountability.”
The Executive Director of IFA also discussed how people, including right here in the Hudson Valley, can help the cause. In addition to making a tax deductible donation, they can hold their public politicians accountable for local hate crimes and other senseless violent actions, spread the word about the harmful impact of white supremacist groups destructively spreading their messages on social media and just get involved in some way in spreading the messages laden in this imperative case.
The powerful event concluded with a person who has been immersed in making a local difference on this topic. City of Beacon resident, Justice McCray spoke with emotion, as he related the debilitating impact of recent senseless national violence on the African-American population. However, he continued by stressing the dire need to stand up to it at all costs. An ardent supporter of Beacon Black Lives events, McCray, who is running for political office in the fall, is tangibly showing how people coming together can lead to potent and critical change.
“It makes me feel great that people who hate me for my mere existence are being held accountable,” said McCray about the Charlottesville court case. “Each and every one of us is far from powerless; we have the ability to create an equal balance of power; we can create systems to heal systems of hatred.”