Things We Saw Today: There’s Nothing More Metal Than Stopping Your Concert to Shame A Groper

A British metal band, Architects, were performing in the Netherlands when lead singer Sam Carter noticed one of the attendees groping a woman who was crowd-surfing.

“I saw a girl, a woman, crowdsurfing over here,” Carter said, “and I’m not gonna fucking point the piece of shit out that did it, but I saw you fucking grab at her boob. It is fucking disgusting and there is no fucking place for that shit.”

“It is not your fucking body,” he shouted. “It is not your fucking body and you do not fucking grab at someone. Not at my fucking show. So if you feel like doing that again, walk out there and fuck off and don’t come back.”

Personally, I’d have thrown the creeper out immediately, so this isn’t my ideal response, but I’m still glad Carter called him out and set expectations for any would-be assaulters in the rest of the crowd. Crowdsurfing is often unsafe for women, and it’s important for men to shame and condemn anyone who uses it as an excuse for assault.

Carter finished his rant by calling for attendees to “make this a safe place for everybody,” because – hate to break it to you, Nazis –  there’s nothing more metal than creating a safe space. (via Huffington Post)

  • The Joker’s real name is now canonically Jack Napier – at least in the pages of Batman: White Knight, which takes place in an alternate DC universe where Batman became Gotham’s worst villain and the Joker has to stop him. Though the name first appeared in Tim Burton’s Batman movie, it will now be official in at least one of the comics universes. (via io9)
  • The forthcoming board game Monster Slaughter will let you play as the horror-movie monster who kills everyone. Choose those victims wisely. (via Kotaku)
  • Sonny Landham, who played Billy Sole in Predator, has passed away at the age of 78 (via SYFYWire)
  • Batman and Harley Quinn is apparently THE WORST. Curse you, DC animated movies.
  • Oooh, check out these pretty character posters for The Gifted, Fox’s upcoming mutants TV show!
  • Are you going to be in Austin on September 14? You can watch Evil Dead II in the woods with Bruce Campbell. (via Nerdist)

(Featured image via screengrab)

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No One Has Any Patience for This “I Regret My Trump Vote” Tearful Handholding

Yesterday, the New York Times published an op-ed titled “I Voted for Trump. And I Sorely Regret It.” If you’re already rolling your eyes at that headline, oh just wait.

The piece isn’t just written by a Trump voter, by the way. It comes from Julius Krein, who, last February, founded American Affairs, a pro-Trump website designed to give his campaign “intellectual heft.” He’s been called, in all earnestness, “Trump’s wunderkind.” This man didn’t just cast a single vote for Trump, he worked hard to legitimize his entire campaign.

So now that Krein has finally realized his “optimism was unfounded,” you’ll have to forgive me for not giving one single shit.

Krein throws out some examples of things he couldn’t possibly have been expected to know would be bad for America, including Trump’s “needlessly inflammatory” statements on immigration. Funny, I seem to remember a whole lot of people foreseeing those as being dangerous. The same goes for those typical politicians’ “strict ideologies” he eschewed. We call those “The Constitution” and “civil rights & liberties.”

Krein wrote about the denial he was in before and since the election, which he sees so clearly now. “For months, despite increasing chaos and incoherence, I have given Mr. Trump the benefit of the doubt,” he writes. “’No, I don’t really think he is a racist,’ I have told skeptical audiences. ‘Yes, he says some stupid things, but none of it really matters; he’s not really that incompetent.’ Or: ‘They’ve made some mistakes, but it’s still early.’”

Now, he concedes, “It’s no longer early. Not only has the president failed to make the course corrections necessary to save his administration, but his increasingly appalling conduct will continue to repel anyone who might once have been inclined to work with him.”

To which literally everyone who saw this coming from the very start replied:

You don’t get a fucking cookie for being sorry now that you contributed to the growing chemical fire that is the state of our country. You supported a candidate because he told you you would rise up by stomping down many, many others, and now you’re surprised that that vicious ideology is affecting your life too? No one is going to wipe away your tears and thank you for allowing us to see them.

What’s possibly even more amazing and maddening than these “I was so wrong” pieces are the “How could we possibly have known??” people.

I’m sorry, WHO COULD HAVE PREDICTED THIS? That’s a serious question?? Gee, let’s start with:

To anyone who actually feels bad for voting for Trump: good. You should feel bad. Because it was not unforeseeable, and you had to ignore a hell of a lot that the rest of us were standing here, waving our arms, and pointing at for a good long while.

If you’ve realized the error of your ways, that’s a fine start, but you don’t get praise or sympathy and the New York Times sure as hell shouldn’t be letting you believe otherwise.

(image: Shutterstock)

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Things We Saw Today: Dan Harmon Delivers a Glorious Anti-Nazi Rant

Rick and Morty and Community‘s Dan Harmon wants to make it absolutely, totally clear that he’s not a nazi. Also, “2/3 of the country doesn’t want to be political. It’s not politics to say you’re not a Nazi! It’s like taking a shit. You just do it or you explode! You die if you don’t shit and you die if you don’t say you’re not a Nazi. Fascism is a fucking cancer, it will eat your country unless your country kills it.” Is that clear enough for everyone? (via Pajiba)

  • A painful, but brutally honest read from a black man about how his relationship with his Trump-supporting mother led him to the realization that sometimes, blood is just blood: How Trump Ruined My Relationship With My White Mother.” (via The Root)
  • Deadline reports that Gemma Chan has joined Mary Queen of Scots and my interest in the film has just gone up 1000000%.
  • John Boyega, who is the actual worst at keeping secrets, reveals which celebrities have a cameo in The Last Jedi. The answer is pretty exciting. (via Collider)

Look at these awesome people standing up for what’s right and not eating cake.

  • Don Hertzfeldt World of Tomorrow is an animated masterpiece, and it’s getting a second installment. The title, is appears, is World of Tomorrow Episode 2: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts. (via Indiewire)
  • Ever wonder what a system error looks like on augmented reality? Check it out on Geekologie.

That’s it for what we saw today, what did you see?

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Oh, Great. Texas Just Passed an Awful “Rape Insurance” Law.

Welcome to The Week in Reproductive Justice, a weekly recap of all news related to the hot-button issue of what lawmakers are allowing women to do with their bodies!

Over the past few weeks, we’ve watched frightening Texas legislation move from the state House, to the state Senate, to the desk of the state’s radical anti-choice governor, who on Tuesday signed off on it. The bill will ban private insurance coverage of abortion for women even in cases of rape, unless women buy a supplement plan in advance, earning the bill the beloved colloquial title “rape insurance.”

The passage of HB 214 is unfortunate, but nothing new; there are 25 states with restrictions on abortion coverage in insurance plans as part of the Affordable Care Act, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations have spoken out against HB 214, but it remains unclear if a lawsuit will be filed.

In either case, while we should all obviously be keeping an eye on everything going on in Texas (which also just this week saw the death of a transphobic bathroom bill) plenty of other reproductive rights news unfolded this week in other parts of the country, and we shouldn’t lose sight of that—especially because not all of it was bad.

Oregon governor signs bill expanding abortion access

In some very welcome, much-needed good news, on Tuesday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, signed off on a bill that will require health insurers to provide birth control and abortion to individuals without cost. The Reproductive Health Equity Act, called the nation’s most progressive reproductive rights policy in recent history, will additionally provide this crucial access to health care to undocumented women, which also bans discrimination against transgender and gender nonconforming individuals by health care providers.

At a time when costs and lack of public funding constitute one of the most significant barriers to access abortion, and as trans and undocumented face an escalated amount of threats to their rights and safety, Gov. Brown’s signing of the bill marks a crucial victory, and serves as a reminder of what can be done if we elect more pro-choice state lawmakers and governors.

New study finds lack of abortion clinics is driving up costs

A new study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco has found that lack of clinics near women who seek and have abortions is driving up the costs of abortion after-care by 76 percent. This is because women who have abortions and want to confirm the end of their pregnancies have no choice but to go to emergency rooms, rather than make the long trip back to the clinic they had their abortion at.

The median cost to Medicaid for the emergency department visit is $941, while the median cost to go back to the clinic is $536.

The study notes that while abortion is objectively a safe medical procedure, women who have abortions understandably want to be sure that nothing went wrong without their knowledge.

Of course, the study is just looking at abortion after-care. The costs of abortion care itself are infinitely driven up by the presence of anti-choice laws that place medically unnecessary and expensive requirements on abortion clinics based on the erroneous idea that the procedure is dangerous and women will need to be rushed to the hospital. These requirements wind up shutting abortion clinics down by the dozen, forcing women to miss work and pay travel and lodging fees, on top of paying for their abortions—either that or put themselves in danger with unsafe DIY abortions.

For-profit corporations are taking advantage of Obamacare birth control exemptions

According to a new report by the Center for American Progress, for-profit corporations are exploiting a piece of the Affordable Care Act allowing religious institutions to be exempt from providing female employees with birth control.

The contraceptive mandate of the ACA provided 67 percent of women with insurance free birth control, and according to the National Women’s Law Center, in 2013, the contraceptive mandate saved women $1.4 billion on birth control pills and gave 55 million women access to low-cost birth control coverage. This latest report suggests that in actuality, the number of women who were able to benefit from the mandate was likely smaller.

Of course, it’s tremendously important to recognize that whether we give all women regardless of socioeconomic status access to crucial health care to control their bodies is a moral issue, but nor should we forget that this is an economic issue, too—one that decides women’s educational and professional futures, that determines their job stability and enables them to compete on an equal playing field with men.

Federal judge rules Arkansas can withhold Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood

As a result of the notorious 2015 sting videos edited to suggest Planned Parenthood “sells baby parts,” a federal judge has ruled that Arkansas can withhold Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood relies on federal funding to provide breast cancer screenings, STI testing, sexual health education, contraception, pap smears, and a number of other services. With limited access to birth control and sex ed, judging from what happened in Texas in the years after Planned Parenthood was defunded, expected unintended pregnancy rates—and with them, abortion rates—to soar.

It’s a shame that illegally obtained and heavily edited videos of Planned Parenthood workers explaining fetal tissue donation—a common practice that’s yielded the discovery of a cure for polio and was previously supported by Republicans until placed in the context of women’s health—could soon lead to thousands of low-income people losing access to crucial health care.

Arizona forced to reimburse Planned Parenthood for legal battle over unconstitutional bill

To end things on a (somewhat) positive note, on Monday, the U.S. District Court judge ordered the state of Arizona to reimburse Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers for the costs incurred by fighting the state’s most recent unconstitutional law, which required doctors to lie to female patients that medication abortion is reversible. (It’s not.)

This reportedly cost the state $600,000, which sounds like pretty good news until you remember that this came out of the pockets of Arizona taxpayers. This should all serve as a reminder of how fiscally wasteful the crusade on abortion rights is, on a state and federal level.

Just last year, the House doubled the budget of a committee investigating Planned Parenthood for the great evil of providing abortion services (friendly reminder for all the conservatives sitting in the back that abortion is, in fact, legal) and donating fetal tissue for medical research. Over the course of a year, the committee cost taxpayers $1.6 million.

It’s ironic that abortion opponents who decry seeing their tax dollars go toward the abominable “abortion business” (once again, for all the conservatives sitting in the back—the Hyde amendment already prohibits taxpayer dollars from funding abortion, a policy that’s done nothing but deny throw poor women and women of color under the bus) but are A-OK with these dollars being wasted on abortion-related witch hunts.

(image: Shutterstock)

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Heather Heyer’s Mom Has No Time or Patience for Trump’s False Condolences

A couple of days ago, we watched with heartbreak as Susan Bro, mother of Charlottesville activist Heather Heyer, spoke at a memorial service for her daughter. She spoke to the fact that she wanted her daughter’s death to count for something, and encouraged all of us not to let it have been in vain, but to fight injustice as her daughter no doubt would have continued to do. Bro is now putting that into practice.

In the above interview with Good Morning America, Bro explains that she received her first call from Trump during her daughter’s funeral, so she didn’t respond. She then spent the subsequent few days recovering from the exhaustion of that experience as well as getting things moving on a foundation she’s creating in her daughter’s name to continue the kind of activism of which Heyer would approve. During those days, she says she received “frantic” calls from the White House press team that she never got back to in her exhaustion and grief.

Something else she didn’t do as she dealt with her exhaustion and grief was watch much of the news. When she did, she was in for a shock. Eventually, she saw Trump’s hateful press conference from Tuesday, during which he equated the counter-protesters with white supremacists by saying that there was violence “on many sides.”

“Many sides” didn’t kill Heather Heyer. That was a white supremacist behind the wheel of a car that did that.

Now that Bro is all caught up, she has no intention of ever talking to Trump. “I hadn’t really watched the news until last night, and I’m not talking to the president now, I’m sorry, after what he said,” she explained. “I saw an actual clip of him at a press conference equating the protesters … with the KKK and the white supremacists.”

She goes on to say, “You can’t wash this one away by shaking my hand and saying, ‘I’m sorry.’ I’m not forgiving for that.”

Amen. You can’t minimize a young activist’s death, equate her to racist hate groups, and then expect to be able to use her grieving mother to help you win political brownie points. That’s not how this works.

(via The Daily Dot, image: screencap)

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Steve Bannon Is Fired and/or Resigning From the White House, and Everyone Is Rejoicing – It’s Schrödinger’s firing.

Trump Chief Strategist/former Breitbart head Steve Bannon is finally on the way out, and we could not be more thrilled.

We’re still not sure exactly what went down, and there are conflicting reports depending on whose buddies you believe:

So, basically, they’re privately arguing over who broke up with who, but the public face of it is that it was a mutual agreement, according to a White House statement. But with Donald Trump, these things never stay private for long, so expect it to very publicly be hashed out soon, especially as the pro-Bannon wing of Trump support grows restless with Trump not quite being awful enough for their standards on his own. It already seems like some pro-Trump media, unsurprisingly starting with Breitbart, is poised to turn on him.

I think this is where the “moderate” Republicans truly learn the meaning of The Scorpion and the Frog. Trump is likely to find that particularly backstabby, as the only way I can make sense of the purported timeline:

As well as Trump’s public statement earlier this week that Bannon is not racist, is that his goal was to part with Bannon on terms that wouldn’t make it appear as though he blamed Bannon for the white supremacist part of his support. I hope he can be baited into explaining as much publicly, since baiting him into firing Bannon in the first place seems to have worked:

Meanwhile, there’s also legitimate concern that Bannon’s removal won’t result in a huge rift, and he’ll instead take to propaganda operations outside the White House while freeing Trump from the optical nightmare of actually employing him. It’s also worth noting that Bannon’s departure is good, but the White House doesn’t deserve any credit—which they’re no doubt hoping for—for removing him while Trump’s own bigotry remains.

Whatever the case, we’re going to take this moment to savor his removal.

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Boys Can Like Butterflies: How Policing Little Boys Contributes to a Culture of Male Violence

In the midst of all the horrible things happening in our country right now, there was a Twitter thread I came across a couple of days ago that not only made me sad, but made me very afraid of the ways in which we are all complicit in a culture of male violence. Especially since that male violence seems to be manifesting itself right now in the form of white nationalism.

In a thread that started with the above tweet, a woman who goes by @boguspress on Twitter, who apparently makes a living as a clown and facepainter at children’s parties and events, talked about a heartbreaking moment in which a mother kept her little boy from getting the facepaint he wanted.

You can check out the full thread by clicking on the above tweet, but she recounts the story of a little boy who asked her to paint a butterfly on his face because he likes butterflies, but then his mother chimed in with, “No, he doesn’t want that.” The rest of the conversation went down like this:

@boguspress: “Butterflies are beautiful, he said that’s what he wants, shouldn’t I paint what he wants?”

Mother: “No give him something for boys”

The mother then turns to the dad and asks: “Do you want your son to have a butterfly on his face?”

Dad: “No.”

The mother made @boguspress paint a skull and crossbones on her son’s cheek instead. @boguspress complied, but when she was done, she asked the little boy if he’d also like a little blue butterfly, the boy said yes, but the mother screamed at the facepainter, “You didn’t ask ME.”

@boguspress replied, “Oh I’m sorry, I thought this was for HIM.” But the mom yelled at her that she’s his mother, and so she’s the one that needs to be asked. The facepainter apologized to the kid.

In the thread, @boguspress then connects the incident to bigger issues:

This Twitter thread reminds me of my time as a nanny in NYC. I was caring for a pair of brothers, one was seven, the other four.

We went to McDonald’s, and they both wanted Happy Meals. At the time, there was a Transformers Happy Meal in connection to whichever movie had just come out, and there was an alternative Happy Meal that had cute, pastel-colored animals as toys. I think it might have been a Littlest Pet Shop Happy Meal, but I’m not 100% sure. Let’s just go with that for the sake of the story.

The four year old loved animals, and so he asked me to get him the Happy Meal with the animals in it. The older boy wanted Transformers. Cool, cool. When I ordered, I said to the young woman behind the counter, “I’d like one Transformers Happy Meal, and one Littlest Pet Shop Happy Meal.” She looked at the kids I had with me and said, “Oh, that pet shop one is the girls’ Happy Meal. I can give you two Transformers ones, though!”

As if she were cheerfully saving me from making a huge mistake.

I said, “I didn’t ask for a ‘boys Happy Meal’ or a ‘girls Happy Meal.’ I asked for one Transformers Happy Meal, and one Littlest Pet Shop.”

She repeated again that the Littlest Pet Shop one was the girls’ Happy Meal. We went back and forth several times, including one time where I threatened to talk to a manager, before she finally just gave me the damn Happy Meals I asked for with a look on her face that said that she still thought I was completely bonkers for getting one of each for the two boys I was with.

So, boys not only have their parents to worry about when it comes to blocking their ability to love beautiful things, or feel the full breadth of their emotions, they have the general population to worry about, too. Just as girls are constantly talked to about their looks, or told that they can’t do this or that because it’s a “boy” activity, boys are policed about what they enjoy, too, lest they *gasp* appear too feminine. Because that would be the worst.

Thankfully, the boys in my story have parents who counteract the world’s ignorance with regard to gender. At home, the boys played with their Wonder Woman, Live Wire, or Harley Quinn figures just as easily as they played with Superman, Batman, or Aquaman once I gently informed them that they could. The world had told them that only girls could play with the female heroes (which their parents had bought for them), but all it took were some grown-ups they trusted telling them it was okay for them to play Wonder Woman for them to do it.

They already wanted to. They’d just been told it was wrong.

We also traded off on who got to be Ahsoka Tano whenever we’d play Clone Wars.

We do our boys a huge disservice every single time we force “strength,” “power,” and other hallmarks of stereotypically male gender expression upon them, and in doing so, we do the world a disservice.

Girls and women are obviously getting the short end of the stick with regard to patriarchy, what with not being the patriarchs and all, but our boys and men are so deeply repressed about their wants and needs and feelings that there’s nothing left for them but rage and hurt.

And those things, left unchecked over time, can be dangerous. They turn to things like domestic violence and racist/homophobic/transphobic violence. We teach boys to see anything remotely feminine or soft as a weakness, and are then “surprised” when so many of them do violent things.

We shouldn’t be surprised. As a society, we impose the language of violence and rage upon them. What else can they be expected to use?

Individual boys are as different as snowflakes. Some love action and adventure, others love butterflies and female heroes. It’s time we gave boys the space to like either, or both, so that they can be better balanced as human beings, and be truer to themselves. If you have a child who identifies as a boy, consider letting him express his maleness however he sees fit and try to keep your opinion of what that should look like to yourself. If you’re with someone else’s child who identifies as a boy, don’t take it on as your responsibility to correct his interests or his appearance to “save” him from being “too feminine.”

First, because it’s not your child, so mind your business. Second, because when you police someone’s behavior based on gender, you’re doing the world more harm than good. Stop trying to help.

(image: Fotonegi/Shutterstock)

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Protesters in Durham “Turned Themselves In” to Show Solidarity with Takiyah Thompson

In the days since Charlottesville, cities across the country have taken steps to remove Confederate monuments. Baltimore removed all of theirs in the middle of the night earlier this week. And if you haven’t yet watched the video of protesters in Durham, North Carolina, who refused to wait on their city and toppled a Confederate statue themselves, I recommend doing so. It’s highly cathartic. Here’s a taste:

One woman, Takiyah Thompson (you can see her coming out from behind the statue in the GIF), was arrested for her part in the protest. She’s currently out on bail, but this morning, a group of about 200 people gathered outside the Durham courthouse to oppose her arrest. And many of them (about 50 by some accounts) also went full Spartacus and lined up to turn themselves in to authorities.

The discrepancies in how Thompson’s “crimes” (which include one charge of “inciting a riot”) are approached by law enforcement, versus those that preceded them in Charlottesville, are obvious and disgusting.

From the tweets of organizers and protesters, it sounds like the Durham Sheriff turned people away from turning themselves in for crimes, which seems … problematic.

I know there are a lot of people out there who are feeling helpless and don’t know what they can do about all the violence and injustice they see spreading like racist wildfire. Durham has just set itself up as a strong model for action. And you don’t even have to risk arrest if you’re not willing or able. Listen to these protesters chanting “Thank you, we love you” to those offering themselves up.

Those protesters are necessary voices to tell those spreading hate that “the future is now, and the future is not white supremacist Confederate statues.”

There are protests happening all over the country, but even if you aren’t able to join in person, you can stay informed–

–And you can support those who are there, on the ground.

Thank you to everyone in Durham, and everywhere else, fighting this fight.

(image: screengrab, Twitter)

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Crying Coward Neo-Nazi Used Transphobic Language Against Chelsea Manning

Warning for racist and transphobic language.

Christopher Cantwell talked a big talk in the VICE News footage before Charlottesville, but in the aftermath he’s sniffling and weepy, playing a full hand of victim cards. Videos of him crying and declaring himself “terrified” went viral, but when I watched it I couldn’t find any satisfaction in mocking Cantwell’s tough guy about-face, because of the vicious way he speaks about Chelsea Manning.

First, for context, here’s the pre-Charlottesville protests Cantwell swaggering around, thrilled to be at the gathering of white supremacists and Nazis, and showing off the arsenal of deadly firepower he brought with him to Virginia. The VICE footage is intercut with Cantwell’s later personal video where he cries like a toddler who has had their lollypop taken away. Like so:

“I carry a pistol. I go to the gym. I’m trying to make myself more capable of violence,” says Cantwell the First in VICE’s Charlottesville: Race and Terror, before breaking out the more than four guns he is wearing on his person. He says awful things about black men who have been murdered recently in America.

Cut to: “We have done everything in our power to keep this peaceful,” he whines, days after Charlottesville. Then he openly confesses to having engaged in violence, “in defense of myself and others.”

I had seen supercuts like the one above that highlight Cantwell’s hypocrisy. But it wasn’t until I watched Cantwell’s video in its entirety today that I heard his hateful rhetoric towards Chelsea Manning. Cantwell refers to a tweet Manning sent out during the Charlottesville events, and uses transphobic language and misgendering in discussing her.

(It’s worth noting that Chelsea Manning maintains one of the most relentlessly positive twitter feeds I’ve ever seen, responding to hate with happy, colorful emojis and every day reminding her followers that “we got this.”)

“Chelsea Manning, this tranny fanatic,” Cantwell says in the video, while his face twists in anger. “Has a picture of himself —” Now his expression turns grossly derisive, “—herself—talking about curb-stomping Nazis, with a picture of his boot coming down on somebody.”

This is the tweet that has Cantwell slurring in fury and fear:

I hope that going forward, Christopher Cantwell’s life looks like it does in this video—choking on his own self-righteousness and assumed victimhood, wondering if he’s about to be arrested, despised by people of conscience, and utterly alone.

Chelsea Manning should have the last word here.

(image: screengrab)

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ACLU of California Condemns White Supremacy and ACLU National’s Attempts to Defend It

The ACLU’s California chapters have officially broken ranks from the rest of the ACLU National organization, announcing in a statement that they condemn groups who hide behind the First Amendment as an excuse to incite or engage in violence. They write:

“Our country’s greatest strengths are the diversity of its people and the principles of equal dignity and inclusion that unite us all. There are troubling events planned in our state in the coming weeks. This is an incredibly painful and difficult time for millions of Californians.  For those who are wondering where we stand – the ACLU of California fully supports the freedom of speech and expression, as well as the freedom to peacefully assemble. We review each request for help on a case-by-case basis, but take the clear position that the First Amendment does not protect people who incite or engage in violence. If white supremacists march into our towns armed to the teeth and with the intent to harm people, they are not engaging in activity protected by the United States Constitution. The First Amendment should never be used as a shield or sword to justify violence.”

This move is especially notable as the ACLU’s recent actions have garnered much notoriety for the longstanding organization.

Most recently, the ACLU represented Jason Kessler, who organized the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, where tensions exploded as white supremacist Nazi demonstrators lashed out at counter-protesters. One such incident resulted in the death of Heather Heyer, a counter-protester who died after James Alex Fields Jr., a white supremacist and supporter of the “alt-right” (i.e., Nazi) movement drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters in a narrow city street. Critics have levied some of the blame upon the ACLU for defending Kessler, saying that if Kessler’s permit to demonstrate was revoked (i.e., if the ACLU chose not to defend him), the violence never would have happened and Heyer might still be alive.

ACLU executive director Anthony Romero has come out against such accusations, writing in a statement, “The violence of this weekend was not caused by our defense of the First Amendment.”

Before that, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in defense of Milo Yiannopoulos, whose actions have incited harassment against marginalized people. Earlier this year, Yiannopoulos’ recent scheduled appearances at college campuses was met with fierce resistance from numerous student organizations, which many of his supporters labelled censorship and a restriction on free speech—you know, never mind the fact that Yiannopoulos doxed and outed a trans woman at his University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee talk.

ACLU National doesn’t necessarily support or condone Yiannopoulos’ actions, but somehow they fail to see how their defense of such speech leads to such harassment and violence. In a stunning post on their blog, the ACLU equated defending Yiannopoulos’ actions with other cases in which LGBTQIA people have been discriminated against with regards to their presentation or speech, referring to a 2010 case in which a teenager wanted to take her girlfriend to the prom in a tuxedo. The difference between these cases is that one results in a teenager getting to go to prom while the other resulted in a trans woman being forced to withdraw from school or risk harassment from being doxed. That is the kind of “free speech” that ACLU National seeks to protect.

And let’s not fool ourselves here: the ACLU has a long history of defending Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacist provocateurs.

Seeing at least a few chapters of the ACLU break ranks from the rest of the organization and condemn hate speech is heartening, for sure. Moreover, this spotty history doesn’t necessarily undo or eliminate the work they’ve done to actually protect civil rights. But equating hate speech with free speech is a mistake—I’m glad that the ACLU of California recognizes that, at least.

(image: Shutterstock/Hayk_Shalunts)

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