Your View: White nationalists have right to free speech, but so do we

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By Holly Bowers, Alexandria (Photo/Chris Teale)

To the editor:
So we have new neighbors in Old Town. Leaders of the “alt-right,” including Richard Spencer — he of “Hail Trump” fame, who organized a “March on Jews” in his Montana hometown — have set up shop on King Street (“The ‘alt-right’ arrives in Alexandria,” January 26).

The site is meant to serve as a headquarters for the group, where they’ll run a website, create videos and host events. There are many words to describe this undertaking. Odious is one. Despicable is another. Horrifying. Abhorrent. Loathsome. Repulsive. All apply.

I was an English major, and I firmly believe in the power of words. So let’s use them correctly — these are white supremacists, not the “alt-right.” “Alternative” describes the bad music that I listened to in high school, not the views of someone who believes in the superiority of Europeans and white Americans. To describe these views as “alt-right” is an insult to everyone on the right side of the political spectrum. It’s white supremacy — an ugly term for an ugly philosophy.

Unfortunately, white supremacists have as much right to rent space on King Street as anyone else does. The First Amendment protects their right to speak freely, even to create an on- line hub to spread hate.

However, the First Amendment also protects my right to express my disgust at white supremacists headquartering themselves in my city. As Delegate Mark Levine (D-45) said at a town hall this weekend, “He does have a legal right to be here, but we have an equal right to make [them] feel unwelcome.”

It’s a weird time. But one thing we can’t do is get complacent. It is important to remember that none of this is normal — it is not normal for white supremacists to establish a hub for hate speech above a neighborhood chocolate shop.

It’s not normal for them to move so close to Washington, D.C. in hopes of influencing mainstream politics. In fact, it’s terrifying. In the immortal words of Mad-Eye Moody from the “Harry Potter” series, it’s a time for constant vigilance.

Put up a sign welcoming everyone. Support the local businesses that didn’t ask for these new neighbors. Get in touch with City Manager Mark Jinks. Picket.

Ask city council what they’re doing to stand by their statement on inclusiveness, issued last November. Reach out to groups who may feel vulnerable right now. Make it known that hate has no place in Alexandria.

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