By Sheri Williams
More than 500 labor leaders, union members, politicians and community activists took over the streets of downtown Sacramento to speak out against white nationalism in the wake of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia in August.
The event began at Sacramento City Hall, where Sacramento Central Labor Council executive director Fabrizio Sasso addressed the gathered crowd with a message of strength and action, paraphrasing a famous speech by Robert Kennedy given in 1968 after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.
“What we need in the United States is not division. What we need in the United States is not hatred. What we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness, but love and wisdom and compassion towards one another, and a feeling of justice towards those who still suffer in our society, whether they be white or black, gay or straight, Christian or Muslim or Jewish,” said Sasso.
“So I ask you tonight to say a prayer for our country, which all of us love, a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke. We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We have had difficult times in the past and we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence. It is not the end of lawlessness. It is not the end of disorder. The vast majority of people in this country want to live together, want to improve our quality of life and want justice for all people who abide in our land.”
Sasso was joined on stage by Mayor Darrell Steinberg, members of the Sacramento City Council and members of community and faith groups.
Steinberg addressed the crowd, urging people to stand in unity in the wake of a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, where one woman was killed when a car driven by an alleged white supremacist and Nazi sympathizer drove into a crowd of counter-protesters.
“We gather tonight as we always do in Sacramento after one of these horrendous incidents: In strength, in solidarity, in peace, and with a firm and resolute commitment that we will grieve for those who lost their lives and stand with those who are scared, and say there is no moral equivalence between white supremacy and the hundreds of millions in this country and all in Sacramento who reject such hate and work every day to include and build, not exclude and destroy,” Steinberg said.
“We say with clarity and confidence: How many times must the people demand that in times of crisis, leaders take a stand? Mr. President, what you say and don’t say matters. Your failure to swiftly and unequivocally denounce white supremacists is a moral blot on your presidency. Shouldn’t the American people expect more from their president? That your failure to speak out does not surprise us makes it no less heartbreaking. Eli Weisel said the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. It was true then, it is true today.
We say with clarity and confidence: In our city, we have lived through white supremacists torching synagogues, NAACP buildings, JACL buildings, and killing gay men in cold blood. Our response for 19 plus years has not only been strong and unifying, our commitment to being the antidote to what happened in Charlottesville has never been stronger.”
After the speeches at City Hall, the crowd took to the streets for a march to the California State Capitol. As dusk set in, many carried candles and signs for Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman killed in Virginia.
After reaching the Capitol, more speakers took to the stage, including members of Black Lives Matter, the Brown Berets and other local activist groups.