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Rye lawmakers stand against Virginia melee

Rye lawmakers have taken a stand against a white nationalist rally that occurred in the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, two weeks ago.

In a joint statement with the city Human Rights Commission released last week, Mayor Joe Sack, a Republican, said it was “hard not to notice” and condemned the rally that occurred on Aug. 12 which left a 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, dead and several others injured.

“We stand united with those who oppose intolerance and racism,” the statement read. “We call on all elected officials to be clear and fearless in standing up for the values and humanity inscribed in the Declaration of Independence.”

That Saturday, self-proclaimed white nationalists and a group of counter protestors clashed in what turned out to be a bloody afternoon over Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, a general who commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War.

When tensions boiled over, the rally turned into racial taunting, shoving and brawling, ultimately leading to the governor of the state of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, to declare a state of emergency and send in the National Guard to end the violence.

Rye lawmakers and the city Human Rights Commission have taken a stand against a white nationalist rally that occurred on Aug. 12 in the city of Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo courtesy Bob Mical

However, before the skirmish ended, a driver, 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr., of Ohio, plowed into a crowd of counter protestors, which resulted in Heyer’s death and 19 injured.

As of press time, Fields has been charged with second-degree murder, five counts of malicious wounding and failing to stop at the scene of a crash. Additionally, the driver has been charged with three counts of aggravated malicious wounding.

“I feel like it’s our responsibility to say something,” said Councilwoman Danielle Tagger-Epstein, a Democrat and chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission. “It’s also critical that [the committee] was resurrected in an unfortunate time like this one.”

At the beginning of the year, Sack re-established the commission, which had been non-existent for more than a decade.

Since reviving the committee, members have been involved in helping to draft citywide legislation to establish a policy on immigration enforcement for the Rye Police Department and planning several education-based initiatives set to begin next month.

“You want to make sure that people know you’re there and that you’re a voice for them,” Tagger-Epstein said. “But, you don’t want to be just a mouthpiece. We want to make sure [our] words are followed up with action.”

Prior to its re-establishment, the committee’s last meeting was in 2004. Its next meeting will occur on Aug. 24, after press time.

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