On the heels of a racially charged protest in Virginia and just days away from a "free speech" rally planned in Boston, Gov. Charlie Baker signed and the Legislature endorsed a joint proclamation and resolution denouncing white nationalist and neo-Nazi beliefs.
Baker, Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo condemned the "poisonous ideologies" of white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups and urged elected officials and law enforcement to join them and protect marginalized communities. The document declares white nationalists and neo-Nazis are "menaces to societal order" and "very real threats" to the state's values, like civil rights for all.
Gov. Charlie Baker signed a proclamation Thursday condemning white nationalist hate groups. Senate President Stan Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo signed identical joint resolutions. [Photo: Sam Doran/SHNS]
Copies of the resolution, which was adopted by the House and Senate during their brief sessions Thursday, will be sent to President Donald Trump, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer, whose wife Emily Blout is from Lexington. Three people were killed on Saturday as a result of violent protests in Charlottesville that captivated the nation.
"I think it was important that we come together as a government to show the people of Massachusetts that Massachusetts is different, that Massachusetts is a place where we value everyone no matter their color or religion," DeLeo told reporters. "For us to get that message out today, especially two days before the so-called rally, I think is very important."
The Boston "free speech" rally has raised safety concerns for DeLeo, who said that while freedom of speech is an important principle, other considerations must be made when people utter racist viewpoints.
"I think that when that free speech turns into questions of racism and intolerance, then it becomes a much different, larger societal question," DeLeo said.
Organizers of Saturday's "Boston Free Speech" rally say they are against violence, though concerns remain that those who incited violence in Charlottesville will attend. A separate racial justice march will also take place in Boston on Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center and ending on Boston Common, where the "free speech" rally is also planned.
The GOP governor and the leaders of the House and the Senate, both Democrats, read portions of the joint resolution and proclamation with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito to show they speak with "one voice" on the issue, Baker said.
"White nationalist organizations in our country have consistently promoted values that are overtly racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-immigrant, and these poisonous ideologies continue to promote hatred, bigotry, and violence specifically against individuals solely on the basis of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and immigration status," the resolution states. "While free speech is a bedrock value for the citizens in our commonwealth and country, white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups promote a message that is the antithesis of Massachusetts' dedication to civil rights for all, and is in irreconcilable conflict with our foundational principles of liberty and justice for all."
Rosenberg said it is "unthinkable" that he'd be signing a resolution denouncing neo-Nazis in the year 2017 after what happened during World War II. But hate speech during the 2016 election "opened up these wounds again," Rosenberg said, adding there is "no bad time to speak out" against hate and bigotry.
"If you see the comments that are coming out of these white supremacy and neo-Nazi groups, they're saying the president agrees with them and just basically made it clear that he's in favor of what they're doing. And what are they in favor of doing? They want to create the second American Civil War. That is not what we should be talking about and doing in 2017," Rosenberg told reporters. "Mr. President, where do you stand? Are you with the majority of the American people who do not believe in hate and bigotry and do not want to see hundreds of years of progress turn back? Where do you stand, Mr. President?"
Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry said the president's reaction to the violence in Charlottesville makes it clear that he is "catering to his base." Trump has drawn widespread criticism for saying that "many sides" were to blame for the deadly violence that erupted in the college town.
"These groups have been emboldened and that's what we've seen for the last 12 months, an emboldenment where people feel they can say what they want to say, and they're not afraid to say it anymore because they feel there's no consequences," Dorcena Forry said. "But today we stand as a united body here in Massachusetts to say we are against racism, we are against neo-Nazism, we are against those who want to belittle other people because they may not look like them."
The document states that "today, white nationalism and neo-Nazism remain very real threats to the values for which the Commonwealth stands."
Dorcena Forry stressed that leaders must keep a close watch on the internal happenings of the Trump administration, not just open displays of racism.
"The Ku Klux Klan can march in Charlottesville -- It's unbelievable that it's happening in 2017. It's discouraging, but we know there are policies they are putting in place that are just as bad. It's not just folks in white sheets, not just neo-Nazis and the swastika, there are policies they are making in the United States of America," Dorcena Forry said.
House Assistant Majority Leader Byron Rushing of Boston is proposing that the state look into changing the name of the commuter rail's Yawkey Station by Fenway Park because the late Red Sox owner "was famous for being an incredibly bigoted person."
Under Yawkey, the Red Sox were the last team in Major League Baseball to integrate when it called up Pumpsie Green in 1959. Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier in baseball in 1947.
In 2002, then-Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino told NPR that the team's history included "an undeniable legacy of racial intolerance."
Rushing and Newton Rep. Ruth Balser filed a bill (HD 4114) to have a special commission investigate renaming the station that many Red Sox fans use to get to or from ball games.
"We see his name a lot and no one asks any questions about it," Rushing said of Yawkey, who died in 1976. "So this is a way to raise questions about his history and relationship to the black community, which has been terrible and which has been whitewashed, literally."
The House sent Rushing's bill to the Committee on Transportation on Thursday. Rushing said he has talked to Boston Mayor Martin Walsh about the possibility of renaming Yawkey Way, the street that becomes a de facto part of Fenway Park during Red Sox games.
DeLeo was not aware of the move to consider renaming Yawkey commuter rail station, but said, "We'll obviously give that some thought."
[Colin A. Young and Andy Metzger contributed reporting]